SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen

B06 - Un-/desired Observation: Surveillance Society and the Social Field of Media



Principal Investigator:

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ludwig-Mayerhofer


Kathrin Englert

Jacqueline Klesse

Dr. habil Oliver Schmidtke

David Waldecker


Creating a presence in the public space of the internet poses the challenge of navigating between, on the one hand, generating the desired attention and, on the other, soliciting unwanted and excessive observation by third parties. Indeed, web-based communication opens up possibilities of unlimited observation, surveillance and data collection by a wide range of institutions and individuals. At the same time, cooperative media incite users to make themselves observable and to increase visibility wherever possible. In other words, social media users collaborate in maximising the production and ‘public-ation’ of their own data.

We aim to investigate this tension based on the analytical distinction between ‘solicited attention’ and ‘undesired observation’. Using methods of media ethnography, we will analyse the media practices of a sample of teenagers (ages 17 to 19) from either cities or small towns with diverging educational backgrounds. In addition, we will use focus groups to investigate young people’s judgements about “right” or “wrong” media behaviour, including the “regimes (or modes) of justification” (Boltanski/Thévenot) that inform these judgements. Thus, we will dissect categories of differentiation and of decision-making concerning “(un‑)desired” observation from the perspective of the users. Ultimately this will provide insight into “surveillance society” and the manifold privacies and publics as they are seen by young people.




Englert, K., Waldecker, D., & Schmidtke, O. (2019). Un/erbetene Beobachtung: Bewertung richtigen Medienhandelns in Zeiten seiner Hyper-Beobachtbarkeit. In J. Kropf & S. Laser (Eds.), Digitale Bewertungspraktiken: Labore der Grenzziehung in vernetzten Welten (pp. 215–236). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.