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Negotiating Ubiquitous Surveillance

Surveillance now is ubiquitous—each of us is decomposed along multiple axes into discrete data points, and then recomposed on screens and in combinatory algorithms that organize our life chances. Such surveillance is directly screened in popular culture, however, quite rarely. It is hard to see ubiquitous surveillance, and the harder something powerful is to see, the more powerful it tends to be. The essays of this Screen Shot offer perspective on various concrete instances of contemporary surveillance, both ubiquitous and granular, and in so doing offer tools for negotiating its suffusive presence in and organization of our lives.

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Origin Stories, Surveillance, and Digital Alter Egos

The origin story is an important element for any superhero/villain, as it provides context for a character’s seemingly out-of-this-world abilities. A radioactive spider bit Spiderman, and the Penguin was bullied in his youth. It can also be beneficial for surveillance scholars, inasmuch as it provides context for a once invisible but superhuman body of digital information that circulates as a proxy for us in digital milieus. This body is best understood through contemporary surveillance practices, yet metaphors of the panopticon and George Orwell’s 1984 proliferate in the surveillant imagination. I argue here that mapping an origin story onto a view of our data as a superhuman body not only creates a tangible representation of surveillance, but it also emphasizes and animates alternative surveillance theories useful for circulation in the surveillant imagination.

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"Pseudo-Sousveillance"

(Re)imagining Immigration Narratives and Surveillance Practices by Experiencing "Use of Force"

This article introduces the concept of “pseudo-sousveillance” as simulated sousveillance practices created by the sensory environments of immersive technologies. To advance this concept, I analyze the virtual reality (VR) experience “Use of Force” that immerses participants within the scene of the night during which immigrant Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was beaten by border patrol officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. I argue that the pseudo-sousveillance practices of cellphone recording and surveillance from above enlist users to be active participants in resisting dominant surveillance practices by constructing alternative narratives about immigrant experiences, exposing the overreach of the border patrol, and revealing the limits of surveillance in immigration control. I then discuss the implications that pseudo-sousveillance has for rethinking the rhetorical power of emerging technologies and sousveillance in a surveillant age.

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Responding to #yogabody on Instagram

This article focuses on representations of the yoga body on social media, explaining what the female body in an asana pose stands for in consideration of the dichotomy between Foucault’s docile body controlled by the technology of power and Anita Seppä’s “aestheticization of the subject” as a means of resistance. While socio-technological changes have introduced a new context in the modern era, the dominance of seeing and visual culture has remained central in late-modern society. Through social media, we have entered a new era of constructing self-identity in relation to gender and the body. Looking into the relationship between asana practice and self-identity in postural yoga, I investigate the imaged bodies of yoginis that function under the control of power and as a technique for self-actualization. Drawing from a visual analysis of Instagram posts and interpreting the bodily practices of yoginis, I will search for what happened to modernity’s docile body in the context of this new media.

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Reviews

Damon R. Young, Making Sex Public and Other Cinematic Fantasies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018). 301 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0167-6 / 978-1-4780-0133-1 (hardback, $104.95; paperback,$27.95)

Mauro Carbone, Philosophy-Screens: From Cinema to the Digital Revolution (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2019). 166 pp., ISBN: 9781438474656 / 9781438474649 (hardback, $80.00; paperback,$20.95)

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Rhetoric, Torture, and Surveillance Time

Relying on select US government Torture Memos, this article develops the term “surveillance time” to highlight the ways in which surveillance practices, in this case within the material confines of post-9/11 detention centers, come to threaten humans’ subjectivities through temporal disruption and manipulation. While surveillance has lately been understood in digital terms, such as in corporations’ data-mining practices and in technologies like facial-recognition software, we should not neglect its material, embodied dimensions. Surveillance time ultimately asks us to reconsider how monitoring and information-harvesting practices blur the boundaries between human bodies and data. Attention to the relationship between torture and surveillance also opens up new possibilities for understanding the now-ubiquitous monitoring strategies integrated into everyday life.

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Surveillance, Ubiquity, Granularity

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"The Theatricality of the Emulsion!"

Queerness, Tactility, and Abstraction in the Hand-Processed Films of Roger Jacoby

This article reexamines the career of Roger Jacoby (1945–1985), an abstract painter and gay liberation activist who became renowned for processing film in his darkened bathtub and for films that featured his partner, Ondine, the Andy Warhol Superstar. Through a consideration of film shorts made in the 1970s and 1980s, the article argues that Jacoby’s principal innovation was the exploration of hand-processing, which resulted in films that resembled abstract expressionist paintings in motion. Additionally, it considers hand-processing as an overlooked, albeit powerful, vehicle for expressing non-normative sexuality in American avant-garde film. It situates Jacoby alongside gay filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Gregory Markopoulos, and Jack Smith, and considers how hand-processed media can generate a “corporealized” spectator and disrupt patterns of filmic illusionism and heterosexist protocols of sexual/gender representation.

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"This Video Call May Be Monitored and Recorded"

Video Visitation as a Form of Surveillance Technology and Its Effect on Incarcerated Motherhood

This article argues that the implementation of video visitation in correctional facilities is a mechanism of control used to enact punitive measures for regulating mothers who act outside the dominant paradigms of motherhood. Because prisons were designed to surveil and mothers have historically been surveilled by institutions, incarcerated mothers are often overlooked when we discuss the surveillance methods used to keep institutionalized motherhood intact. This article builds on existing scholarship characterizing surveillance technology’s role in criminalizing poor mothers of color, and considers the ways in which surveillance technology is used to normalize these mothers during their incarceration. Applying a Foucauldian framework, this article explores how adapting Video Visitation (VV)—a Skype-like video chat program—enables correctional facilities to extend the role of “watcher” and expand the panoptic gaze, which prompts mother-to-mother surveillance and intensifies self-surveillance. The article concludes by drawing attention to VV’s structure and its ability to expand correctional facilities’ surveillance to the children of incarcerated mothers.

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Altered Landscapes and Filmic Environments

An Account from the 13th Asian Cinema Studies Society Conference

It’s just past 10:00 am on a humid Monday in Singapore, and the streets seemed to have settled after a workday rush. My walk from Arab Street to McNally Street was rather placid, punctuated by moments at intersections, and surrounded by people heading somewhere. Minutes later, I was looking up at the postmodern buildings of LASALLE College of the Arts—a panorama of reinforced concrete, glass, tiles, and steel gleaming under the morning sun. In cinema, spaces and landscapes are primary features. At times, the setting goes beyond the overarching narrative, as it conveys its own story. Given their impact, Stephen Heath (2016) infers that a process occurs in identifying spatial connections to the characters, since “organizing, guiding, sustaining and reestablishing the space are the factors that reveal this process.” The audience absorbs the familiar images or experiences onscreen. However, embodied objects of varying iterations contribute to how environments in films are concretized. On this note, one can ask: in what ways do filmic environments thus project narratives and discourses?