Episode 2 - Samantha Barbas

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In her new book “Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America,” Samantha Barbas provides a history of Americans’ use of law to manage their public image. She approaches this endeavor from the perspective of a legal and cultural historian, tracking the correlation between a growing American image consciousness and the rise of laws, such as the tort of invasion of privacy and damages for emotional distress, which enabled individuals to control and defend their public persona.


:25   Author Background

3:09 How Samantha Barbas came to write Laws of Image

8:43 The ways the development of image law is part of a broader saga about how Americans became fascinated with, perhaps even obsessed with, their personal image

11:00 The societal changes in the late 19th century that led to a rise in surface image crafting and how this impacted the types of things people sued over

15:00 The ways that the right to privacy proposed in 1890 is an expression of a nascent image-conscious sensibility

24:45 Victorian-era “identity theft”

29:08 Ways the culture of the 1920s heightened the emphasis on public images and the act of image-making

34:06 What privacy rights looked like by the mid-twentieth century

38:27 How libel law changed over the twentieth century

41:37 The tension between the freedom to define one’s own public persona and the freedom to make and distribute images of other people, even if caustic, embarrassing, or unflattering

47:56 Where we are today with privacy and public image

51:40 How laws of image shape media content

52:30 How Professor Barbas tackled telling this story from the perspective of the elusive “ordinary American”

57:26 Some future directions of sociolegal, historical research that she thinks will build off of her work

59:05 What Professor Barbas is working on now