Wayne Erik Rysavy is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently working on his dissertation, tentatively titled, “Digital (Dis)Embodiment: Fragments of Identity in a World that Never Stops Watching.”
His research is driven by the central question of the consequences of (de)constructing the source/body as an ongoing mediation of corporeality and data in visual and textual forms through technology. His work examines this question through through critical-interpretative analyses of case law and individuated practices with connective media and technologies of surveillance to historicize and critique the contemporary relationship between the citizen and the state. Drawing attention to the disembodiment of the source/body as visual data in content massively shared through connective media, his work focuses on the ways individuals use technology to support, sustain, and challenge the visuality of state power and communicate contexts of privacy that demarcate boundaries between self, other, and society.
Adopting critical-interpretive media theories in the vein of surveillance and technology studies, his dissertation problematizes the evidentiary role of visual content produced and shared by individuals through technologies and the expansive practices of surveillance and sousveillance (i.e., the monitoring of those in power by concerned citizens and casual observers), as well as the disembodiment of the source/body as an ongoing form of interactive public critique enabled and supported by connective media. Using case law, news stories, autobiographical accounts, and constitutional law, his dissertation highlights three troubling case studies where laws failed to protect individuals and their families from the possibilities and consequences of visual content—in the forms of police violence, death images, and rape—that spread online. Juxtaposing police enforcement (i.e., the duties to protect and serve the citizenry) and police force (i.e., the exertion of physical, psychological, and legal powers over citizens) as dually political and performative acts of state power, his research project ultimately historicizes contemporary discontent with state-sponsored authority and critiques the questionable desire to perpetually document self and other in the services of personal safety and national security.