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.
Ira J. Allen
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.
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.
Fears of State Surveillance in Eritrea and in the Diaspora
Since 2005, the Eritrean state has implemented measures against the increasing desertion of conscripts by retaliating against deserters' families. This article explores the fears spread by this measure in Eritrea and analyzes how people have interpreted its erratic enforcement, including in those countries to which deserters have fled in massive numbers to seek political asylum. The retaliation has served to 'export' fears about the Eritrean state's surveillance abroad and has reshaped political imagination concerning the power of the Eritrean authoritarian state in the diaspora. I argue that imaginings about the state play a crucial role by curbing the political dissidence of new exiles and by giving rise to new fault lines in the diaspora communities in ways that are beneficial to the current Eritrean leadership.
Maria-Amelia Viteri and Aaron Tobler
This article illustrates the multiple ways in which anthropology graduate students crossed the boundaries of educational discourses by encouraging themselves, other students, activists and community leaders to speak in dialogical contexts (Giroux 2005: 73). They did this through the organisation of the Interrogating Diversity Conference. The authors organised this conference in March 2007 at the American University, Washington, DC, to expand scholarship on surveillance and policing in an egalitarian forum. We discuss how students can engage their departments and faculty in building the students' knowledge of both anthropological theories and methodology through shared scholarship. We show how students can 'apply' anthropology to audiences, which will in turn influence policy decision making. In addition, the authors explore how academics can transform knowledge sharing into tools that shape broader political and social dialogue.
Political Rhetoric at the Center of a Technological Project
This article gives a detailed account of the political processes and stages involved in the implementation of video surveillance devices in two major Portuguese cities, Oporto and Lisbon. It seeks to draw two main conclusions regarding the introduction of these systems in public areas and the developments that they have undergone over the period under analysis. The first is that installing these devices reflects a political response designed to provide a hasty solution to a social phenomenon—fear—that is largely subjective. The second is that the generalized perception as to the uncertainty of the effectiveness of these systems explains the lack of consistency and coordination in their implementation. The article concludes by discussing fear and insecurity in the context of concerns for a more efficient justice system.
Surveillance and the African Immigrant Community in France, 1960-1979
By the early 1960s, an increasing number of Africans migrated to France from their former colonies in West Africa. Most were men hoping to gain employment in several different industries. Their settlement in Paris and other cities signaled the start of "post-colonial" African immigration to France. While scholars have analyzed several facets of this migration, they often overlook the ways in which France's role as a colonial power in West Africa impacted the reception of these immigrants after 1960, where surveillance played a critical role. Colonial regimes policed and monitored the activities of indigenous populations and anyone else they deemed problematic. The desire to understand newly arriving immigrant groups and suspicion of foreign-born populations intersected with the state's capacity to monitor certain groups in order to regulate and control them. While not physically violent, these surveillance practices reflected the role that symbolic violence played in the French government's approach to this post-colonial immigrant population.
An appreciative critique of police surveillance
Policing technologies are increasingly being developed to surveil and control people from afar. This is especially true in relation to cross-border crimes and other global threats where the necessity of monitoring such illegal flows is often advocated. In the literature, this is sometimes referred to as “policing at a distance,” signifying how the growth in different policing technologies is allowing police to oversee people without coming into physical contact with them. Overall, scholars find this development alarming. It is alarming because it reduces human lives to data points and because studies have shown how policing at a distance may trigger hateful police attitudes. With these problems of policing at a distance in mind, this article explores how an increasing use of surveillance technologies affects Danish detectives.
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.