New article: Confusion, control and comfort: premediating identity management in film and television

5 02 2014

One of the brilliant results of my collaboration with Georgina Turner (soon to join the Media Studies Department of Liverpool University). Great article based on watching endless films and TV series; what joy. Abstract:

A number of national and international agencies have pointed to identity management (IM) as one of the main private and public challenges of the future. The issue is subject to intense public controversy and contestation, especially with respect to access to, usage and ownership of personal data. Most work about IM assumes users to be rational actors making instrumental choices on the basis of perceived usefulness and efficiency; cultural narratives hardly ever come up in current research about acceptance of new identity management technologies (IMTs). Screen representations do not prescribe certain meanings around IM, but create and delineate horizons of imagination; repositories of meanings from which people can draw to make sense of innovations and their consequences. In this paper, we focus on a sample of films, television and web series to examine how IMTs are premediated. Our analysis suggests that a whole range of future IM (knowledge- and token-based, as well as
biometric/implant) technologies is imagined here, with biometric and implant technologies most likely to be taken to (dystopian) extremes. Stories of identity theft and confusion, surveillance and control, comfort and corruption construct them as potentially problematic and always under threat, as well as calling up existential concerns about what it means to be human. We conclude that these dark horizons are anchored in myth and persistent fears about who we are, and thus that new means of IM face a difficult task in gaining users’ trust.

Van Zoonen, L., Turner, G. & J. Harvey (2014). Confusion, control and comfort: premediating identity management in film and television. Information, Communication and Society, online first:




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