The Peep Diaries: Chapter 1
Obviously this explosion of new products is made possible by technological innovation, specifically those gizmos, gadgets, and programs that enable us to become increasingly integrated into wireless networks. Less obvious are the social forces that have led to our rapid adoption of Peep ideas and services. Peep emerges, at least in part, from our increasing and ongoing desire to adopt the mantle of celebrity and try out life lived in front of and for an audience. This desire has been slowly but inevitably merging with the notion that we are somehow safer when under surveillance, and that there's little or no downside to helping corporations and governments serve us better by allowing them to store and analyze our preferences and personal details. Meanwhile, the more we're encouraged to reveal ourselves, the more we're becoming used to being observed constantly and perpetually—whether by surveillance cameras on the street, our friends, our employers, or the banks, telephone companies, and ISPs that make our interconnected mass-mediated lives possible. And so we are increasingly tangled in the web of Peep. Are we the spiders or their prey?
One thing we know for sure: Peep culture is infectious. To come in contact with it is to be overcome with the urge to want to see everything and, in turn, want other people to see our everything. In this way we restate the terms of privacy, community, individuality, and even society. Even as we hide in gated communities and cancel out the world via the preprogrammed earbuds of our cell phone/MP3 players, we show and tell all on our blog, our various "my pages," in the photos and videos we upload, on television, and anywhere where else we can think of. Peep culture is human nature gone digital and electronic—which makes it both all-inclusive and dangerously instantaneous. Despite all the navel gazing, this is not primarily, or even necessarily, a culture of reflection. It happens too fast, and it's too addictive, and we're all part of it whether we like it or not, whether we think about it or not. Peep culture's rapid propagation and allure are rooted in the electronic grid that makes seemingly instantaneous pop culture possible, but, like all major cultural shifts, it's more about radical change to society than it is about what we're actually watching, reading, or recording. Peep coalesces the sensibility of twenty-first-century techno society into a never-ending spectacle of bodies and souls bared in the name of entertainment, self-betterment, and instantaneous recognition. Peep is a portal into a collective consciousness no longer content to sit on the sidelines and watch: We want to do.
But do we really know what we're doing? Once upon a time we were taught to avert our eyes, not electronically enhance them. We were taught that spying, peering, and peeking in on people, is no way to behave. For centuries, the legend of Peeping Tom has offered a cautionary tale to that effect. When Lady Godiva rode naked through the town in a bid to convince her husband to lower taxes on the peasants, all the townspeople were ordered to avert their eyes and had the good sense to do so. All except the tailor Tom, who was promptly struck dead, or struck blind, or tarred, feathered, and excommunicated. Well, you get the idea. Since then, poor Tom's been held up as the example, the go-to nickname for curious prying fellows who like to watch.