Thomas Y. Levin: Rhetoric of the Temporal Index: Surveillant Narration and the Cinema of “Real Time”

Not least since Orwell’s 1949 vision of an aggressively invasive authoritarian 1984, our sense of the future – and increasingly of the present – has been marked by the fear of being watched, controlled, and robbed of our privacy. Indeed, one could argue that one of the hallmark characteristics of the early twenty-first century is precisely the realization of Orwell’s worst nightmare (and this even where, as in the United States post 11 September, it is being increasingly welcomed with enthusiasm rather than alarm). In forms ranging from the more obvious closed-circuit television (CCTV) observation to the more insidious (because largely unrecognized) digital information tracking known as “dataveillance” (which covers everything from supermarket purchases to cell-phone usage and internetsurfing patterns) – surveillance has become an issue that is not only increasingly a part of everyone’s daily life, but is even embraced as such. Advertising – always a very sensitive social barometer – has not failed to note this fact, as evidenced by a Manhattan billboard touting clothing that reads: “On an average day you will be captured on CCTV cameras at least a dozen times; are you dressed for it?