2014, Sat, May 31

Unreliable Narrators: Stings to Leaks to Citizen Vigilantes

CAMP

Photo © Mathias Völzke

Photo © Mathias Völzke

Digitization has opened up new possibilities for surveillance and circulation, deployed both by and against hegemonic formations of power.

In this presentation, documentarists Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran turn their attention to three categories of media central to the articulation of India as a control society over the past five years: stings, leaks, and citizen vigilante videos. The sting is a form of investigative journalism that offers entertainment value on par with Bollywood or Big Boss (India’s Big Brother). In cases such as the filming of suspects of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks undergoing narco-analysis, the sting emerges as a site at which privacy is compromised in favor of a marriage of justice and spectacle. The leak ruptures the media system to dump data on a suprahuman scale. Working with the recordings of tapped telephone conversations between Nira Radia, a corporate lobbyist, and many prominent figures in Indian business and politics that were leaked to the press in 2010, Anand and Sukumaran probe how making affective and political sense of the leak requires new forms borrowed from old media, such as cinema. Unpacking the aesthetic and political effects of the phenomenon of the citizen vigilante video—a form that became a major force in participatory democracy in India in early 2014 after the Aam Aadmi ("Common Man") party called on citizens to provide audiovisual evidence of bribe-taking officials— Anand and Sukumaran will explore how public imagination fills in the gaps evident in these testimonial media fragments.