Orwell’s 1984 and the Contemporary Cyber Surveillance State

On Wednesday, October 18th, from 3-4:30 pm in Batelle-Tompkins Atrium, the American University Literature Department and the Internet Governance Lab will host a colloquium on Orwell’s 1984 and its relevance to the contemporary cyber context.

All sectors of the economy and society are now digitally mediated, made possible by the Faustian bargain of pervasive and privatized surveillance in which citizens relinquish personal data in exchange for free services. Authoritarian and democratic nation-states alike enact expansive surveillance, either for politically motivated censorship, identification of dissidents, or law enforcement and intelligence gathering. The same technologies that have provided unprecedented opportunities for creative expression, innovation, and free speech are used for all manner of social, political, and economic control. Modern flashpoints such as the Snowden NSA surveillance disclosures and Russia’s cybersecurity incursions and influence campaigns during the 2016 American presidential election have attracted greater public attention to longstanding tensions between cybersecurity and human rights. This panel will bring together experts in cyberpolitics and cybersecurity to examine Orwell’s 1984 through the lens of the contemporary cyber-surveillance state. How has the language of Orwell shaped/constructed modern cyber discourses? How do the modern surveillance state and underlying political tensions differ from Orwell’s dystopian vision? How would 1984 have been re-written in light of contemporary technological capabilities? Speakers include:

Moderator: Dr. Linda Voris
Professor in the Department of Literature
American University

Dr. Derrick Cogburn
Faculty Director, Internet Governance Lab at American University
Professor in the School of International Service

Dr. Laura DeNardis
Author of The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press)
SOC Professor and Faculty Director, Internet Governance Lab at American University

Dr. Eric Novotny
Professor in the School of International Service
Faculty Fellow, Internet Governance Lab at American University

Colonel (Ret) Randolph Rosin
Faculty of the National Intelligence University
Internet Governance Lab Research Fellow

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