• Arturo Fabbro
4. term, Medialogy, Master (Master Programme)
This paper details the theoretical background and the production of an educational
documentary film whose main purpose is to get its audience involved in a wider
discussion on digital surveillance and technology.
Some contemporary theories on digital surveillance view the extraction of data
from users as part of a mechanism of “behavior modification”, a potential threat
whose consequences might have troubling implications for the meaning of human
agency itself. At the same time, studies show that users might not care enough
about their privacy as to take action, due to a feeling of "digital resignation". Getting
a user involved into a discussion on his or her own privacy is further complicated
by the fact that issues of surveillance and algorithmic intelligence seem
almost “non-human” for us to understand. Therefore, the question might arise of
of how can digital surveillance be represented and communicated.
Starting from the central role that the concept of "human nature" has in the
discourse on surveillance, this paper proposes a theory of “digital humanism” as
a strategic shift in focus towards the human user and the experiential nature of
interacting with algorithms. To attempt at answering the question of how can
surveillance be represented, an educational documentary film was produced according
to the framework of digital humanism. The film aimed at encouraging
viewers’ self-reflection by looking at the tight interplay between user behavior, algorithmic
knowledge, and the folk theories that are developed to understand the
world of algorithms. The film included a varied set of characters, their everyday
life and beliefs on the topic of technology. Eventually, the film suggested the idea
of “personal data obfuscation” as a tactic to deceive algorithms and retain one’s
own privacy and autonomy.
Qualitative testing was carried out eight participants, with the aim of investigating
whether the film was able to impact the viewer’s own algorithmic awareness,
especially in relation to tactics of personal data obfuscation. Results showed
that the film as an educational method succeeded in getting the audience engaged
on the topic of digital surveillance, which was thought to be very relatable to the
viewer’s own everyday life. However, not all communicative goals were reached,
and the film was criticised for lacking technical information. Constructive criticism
was also raised towards the concept of "personal data obfuscation". Future research
can consider the educational framework described in the paper and further
broaden it in conjunction with traditional methods for computer science literacy.
Publication date25 May 2023
Number of pages70
ID: 530955286