The kinder, gentler gaze of Big Brother: Reality TV in the era of digital capitalism

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Surveillance-based reality television has emerged as a resurgent programming genre in the US and Western Europe during a time when the online economy is becoming increasingly reliant upon surveillance as a form of economic exploitation. The portrayal of surveillance through 'reality TV' as a form of entertainment and self-expression can thus be understood as playing an important role in training viewers and consumers for their role in an 'interactive' economy. This article relies on interviews with cast members and producers of MTV's popular reality show 'Road Rules to explore the form of subjectivity that corresponds to its implicit definition of 'reality'. This form of subjectivity reinforces the promise of the interactive economy to democratize production by relinquishing control to consumers and viewers. Surveillance is portrayed not as a form of social control, but as the democratization of celebrity - a fact that has disturbing implications for the democratic potential of the internet's interactive capability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-270
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • 'Big Brother'
  • 'Road Rules'
  • 'The Real World'
  • Digital capitalism
  • E-commerce
  • MTV
  • Reality TV
  • Surveillance

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