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ourbook: A Social Network for a Totalitarian Regime

In 1984, George Orwell depicts a dystopian society called Oceania where communication technologies are used as mass surveillance to ensure the dominance of the state.  The proletariat masses are kept at bay through constant monitoring of actions, speech, and even ideas.  Those who commit “thoughtcrimes” against the Party are forcibly rid of unwanted thoughts.

Many of the technologies that Orwell wrote of in the late 1940s are staples in our daily lives now.  The ‘telescreens’ that monitor the every move and sound of 1984‘s characters are easily reflected in our television screens, our ever present smartphones, webcams, and GPS systems.  Orwell undoubtedly predicted the evolution of communication technologies, though whether he correctly saw their implementation is still up to debate.  Numerous opinions believe we are headed toward an Orwellian present, especially with recent insights on the NSA and wiretapping of civilian information.

The aim of this project is not to debate whether or not 1984 is indeed upon us, but to imagine how the characters of this world would use our modern day social networks.  The masses of Oceania are given roles within their society that feign the structure of a free thinking civilization.  A social network provided by the Party would add a digital level of complacency. ourbook serves as a way the average citizen can communicate with Big Brother, mainly through addressing the misdeeds of others.  This self-policing tactic makes the user feel important in the eyes of the Party and a responsible member of society.  The Party in return will feed back (only positive, and likely fake) news of the ongoing Revolution to conquer the other land masses.  A thoughtcrime reporter will also show live feed of crimes being committed in the area,  making users less likely to commit a crime for fear of shame and judgment.  This false sense of civic participation makes the people feel actively engaged in their government.





The above shows that while ourbook may look like a typical social media site, there is nothing quite social about it.  The individual is not the important factor here, rather it is the interaction with Big Brother.  Individual pictures are shown only in the ThoughtCrime Committed News ticker so citizens will know who to punish for their transgressions.  The main text input in the Home Page communicates directly with the Party and Party messages are the top priority in the newsfeed.

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