Selfies, sound maps, and surveillance were among the topics discussed at Steinhardt’s New Student Convocation on October 6th. The event brought together 800 undergraduate students for a discussion of The Circle, required reading for students entering the school. Students used the 1984-ish satire to explore how their identities have been shaped by technology.
Ted Magder, Steinhardt’s Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, introduced the program which featured presentations by Nicholas Mirzeoff and Helen Nissenbaum, professors of the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, and Tae Hong Park, an associate professor in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions.
Mirzeoff, a specialist in the field of visual culture, used the Selfie as an example of current visual language, remarking that it is a “symptom of the new world we find ourselves in.” Hong Park presented his Citygram Sound project, a real time map of spatio-acoustic energies created through data aggregated by sensors positioned throughout the city. Nissenbaum shared her research on privacy and her work creating tools to block computer users’ data from being aggregated by marketers.
The event ended with a question from Nissenbaum to the audience of mostly digital natives: “Is it true you don’t care about privacy?”
A student answered that she felt very comfortable sharing everything about her life, but when pressed by Nissenbaum, she admitted that transparency only went so far: she would not share her bank account and pin numbers with the audience.