Bernard Harcourt

May 17, 2016


Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age

Harvard University Press 2015

purchase at The landscape described in Bernard Harcourt's new book is a dystopia saturated by pleasure. We do not live in a drab Orwellian world, he writes. We live in a beautiful, colorful, stimulating, digital world a rich, bright world full of passion and jouissance--and by means of which we reveal ourselves and make ourselves virtually transparent to surveillance. Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press, 2015) guides us through our new digital age, one that makes it so easy for others to monitor, profile, and shape our every desire. We are building what he calls the expository society a platform for unprecedented levels of exhibition, watching, and influence that is reconfiguring our political relations and reshaping our notions of what it means to be an individual. Other actors from advertisers to government agencies can compile huge amounts of information about who we are and what we do. Whether they use it to recommend other products to buy or track our movements, Harcourt argues that the influence and interests of other actors is often hidden from us. Despite leaks of classified materials about the extent of this surveillance, public outrage is limited and mild. The scale of data collection and tracking is not a national let alone a global scandal. According to Exposed, are appetites are too well satisfied and our attentions too distracted. Harcourt prods us to practice digital disobedience, lest we will remain in a digital mesh that will only continue to restrict our privacy and anonymity underneath its beautiful, shiny suit.
John Balz is Director of Strategy at VML, a full-service marketing agency with offices around the globe. He has spent his career applying behavioral science strategies in the marketing and advertising field through direct mail and email, display and .coms, mobile messaging, e-commerce and social media. You can follow him on Twitter @Nudgeblog and contact him at

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