Selfie reach

Above: Young woman taking a selfie on her bed. Credit: User366308.

Selfie bedroom

Above: Young woman taking a selfie. Credit: Jess Foami.

Selfie hold

Above: Man holds up smartphone to improve angle of view. Credit: Levi Elizaga.

Selfie in snow

Above: Woman stops to make selfie while out walking in the snow. Credit: Daniel Frese.

Selfie stick

Above: A couple use a selfie stick extension device to capture a holiday snapshot. Credit: Ben Kerckx.


For Virilio, the quality of everyday life is diminished by mass-surveillance and the general trend to share more. The "private life of each and every one of us will gradually yield to the over-exposure of a semi-public life (GA: 36)." This is an impoverishment of the quotidian, "the end of private life is a new kind of poverty (GA: 58)." As Bernard in Joseph Losey's These Are The Damned (1963; a film adaptation of H. L. Lawrence's 1960 novel, The Children of Light) states--in a line reused repeatedly by Virilio: "It's too late to have a private life." (The line as actually spoken in the movie: "It's too late to do anything in private life.") Privacy in everyday life will actually be "obliterated" until it resembles "the intimacy enjoyed by detainees under observation in police custody (GA: 36)." We live in an era of transparency, or trans-apparency, in which each of us is "denuded before ghosts (AM: 04; Virilio is quoting Kafka)."

The information bomb is an explosion that the intelligence agencies in collaboration with the tech companies simply could never manage alone and it is inevitable that the military are also involved in mass data-gathering, surveillance and intelligence operations. Put bluntly, "information requires military control. Information is so powerful now that it must be controlled by the military (VW: 103)." Overall the picture is that "it is no longer a militarization of science that is happening, but rather a militarization of information, a militarization of knowledge (VW: 35)." The present day military strategy can be stated as "everything should be known about everything at every moment (VW: 35-36)."

Perhaps the next logical step beyond Google's Streetview (photo-stitched images of each street on Earth) will be Google Homeview? Rather than the virtual panoramic photos stopping at the front door of each dwelling, the user will soon be able to continue virtually through the front door and wander around the interior of any home they choose (GA: 52). The scene is of "a deadly overexposure of private life that is now spreading as far as the eye can see (GA: 52)."

So too, there is much excitement and hype around the arrival of smart-device technology: the everyday devices all round us will increasingly contain a microprocessor that can help to improve the device functionality--the smart toothbrush which tells you if you are brushing at the right pressure and for the optimum amount of time, for example. For Virilio, the profusion of such technology is troubling. The expectation is that such technology is benign and the manufacturers will only seek to deploy it in a responsible altruistic way, however, for Virilio, it is the lack of transparency that is worrying: any smart device is by its nature keeping a record of usage, a record that can theoretically be interrogated persons unknown. There is a gain in functionality which is opposed by a irritating-but-definite loss of privacy. In any case, we really don't have grounds to presume that tech and electronics companies will only ever behave responsibly (UD: 90).

There are some who seek to live off-grid outside of the system of mass surveillance, however, due to global satellite networks and digital instantaneous shared intelligence, any ambition to "disappear" is only possible to realize if the individual happens to be a State intelligence operative: everyone else is traceable. Above all other concerns it is traceability that is now the crucial State security strategy and this to the extent "traceability has replaced any real identity (ADF: 46)."