Teacher. Mentor. Dissertation committee member. Advocate. Colleague. Friend. These are the many roles that Ed Branigan filled in my life over the eleven-plus years I was privileged to know him. However, merely listing these roles does not really do justice to his impact on me, because it leaves out the kindness, generosity, wit, and enthusiasm that he always had in store for me in all of our interactions, be they postlecture dinners together in Santa Barbara, movie marathons at his house in Oak Park, California, or, as was more and more common over the last few years, e-mail messages.
This is a special issue on surveilled bodies, with five articles guest edited by Ira Allen, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies at Northern Arizona University and Assistant Editor of Screen Bodies. The question here is one of how screens and bodies are brought together through surveillance (visual and otherwise), how surveillance hails the body to attend to it (beckons us to catch a glimpse of here or there) even as it hides itself from the body, working to be noticed yet remaining unnoticed, in order to keep us “on our toes.” In this light, surveillance is not only about investigating, examining, logging, and controlling the body but also about bringing the body into being as a body-to-be-surveilled, about interpolating the body into becoming evermore surveillable in ever-more granular ways.
In conversation with Carl Plantinga's persuasive account of emotion and the ethics of engagement in Screen Stories, this article considers how audiences engage with film and television in an emotive, evaluative manner that is mediated by technology. Because sensory experience and immersive technologies set screen media apart from forms of storytelling such as literature and because technological developments affect the formal strategies of screen media, I argue that the distinctiveness of and differences between film and television warrant attention. I focus on the ethical implications of sustained engagement with immersive narratives and technologies in contemporary television and algorithmic culture.
Ira J. Allen
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.
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.
(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.
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.
John Paul Stadler and Brian Bergen-Aurand
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)
Laura A. Sparks
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.
Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini, and András Bálint Kovács
This article provides evidence for the existence of a robust “brainprint” of cinematic shot-scales that generalizes across movies, genres, and viewers. We applied a machine-learning method on a dataset of 234 fMRI scans taken during the viewing of a movie excerpt. Based on a manual annotation of shot-scales in five movies, we generated a computational model that predicts time series of this feature. The model was then applied on fMRI data obtained from new participants who either watched excerpts from the movies or clips from new movies. The predicted shot-scale time series that were based on our model significantly correlated with the original annotation in all nine cases. The spatial structure of the model indicates that the empirical experience of cinematic close-ups correlates with the activation of the ventral visual stream, the centromedial amygdala, and components of the mentalization network, while the experience of long shots correlates with the activation of the dorsal visual pathway and the parahippocampus. The shot-scale brainprint is also in line with the notion that this feature is informed among other factors by perceived apparent distance. Based on related theoretical and empirical findings we suggest that the empirical experience of close and far shots implicates different mental models: concrete and contextualized perception dominated by recognition and visual and semantic memory on the one hand, and action-related processing supporting orientation and movement monitoring on the other