Published on February 24, 2014
Geographies of Surveillance Stephen Graham Newcastle University
Surveillance: What is It? What might its geographies be? • Split into groups of 2 • Spend 10 minutes coming up with a definition of surveillance and brainstorming all the areas and activities in your life that you think are subject to some form of mediated or computerised surveillance • For each, note down the geographical dimensions of the surveillance process. Where, for example, are the surveillers and the surveilled? How are they related?
The Ambivalence of Surveillance • A definition: The monitoring of social behaviour over various distances in attempts to minimize risks or attempt social control • All social relationships necessarily involve surveillance. Often very positive effects… • Paradox: city life, long attractive for its anonymity and the potential to escape often suffocating surveillance and social control in rural communities, increasingly saturated by tracking, monitoring, remembering, devices
Foucault’s Disciplinary Societies • Michel Foucault (top) Discipline and Punish. Social control in modern, disciplinary societies, rests of extended array of enclosed, disciplinary, spaces: clinics, prisons, schools, factories, workhouses, barracks… • Panopticon design principles (after English philosopher/reformer, Jeremy Bentham 1748-1832, bottom) • The power of visibility and the gaze • Social control based on the possibilities of being constantly monitored, even if controller not actually present • Social control and docility become internalised within subjects so heavy-handed authoritarian power is not needed
Bentham’s Panopticon Prison
Deleuze (1925-1995): Postscript on Societies of Control (1988) • Shift away from physical, panoptic, design, to embedded, technological sensors, spread through, and constituting, society • Continuous, interconnecting, machinic, desocialised, and increasingly automated surveillance operating simultaneously over many scales: body to globe • “In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in societies of control one is never finished with anything”
From Modern Bureaucracies to the Data Image • Closely related to remediations and shifts to ubiquitous computing: “sentient environments” • Globalization, automation, shift to biometric systems • Underpins new consumption, distribution and production practices: saturates popular culture and imaginative practices • Behaviours, tastes, movements, continuously project and refine one’s ‘data image’ • Simulations and social profiles incraesingly shaped through surveillance of actual behaviour
Case Study 1: Street CCTV • 3 million cameras in UK • Average Londoner viewed 300 times per day! • Linked to privatization and enclosure of public space and normalisation of shopping-mall style controls: “malls without walls” • Moral panics e.g. Jamie Bulger murder, Liverpool • Geographical diffusion towards near ubiquity • “Surveillance creep” as extra functions added • Militarisation of law enforcement: ‘Homeland Security’
CCTV on a Typical NYC Shopping Street
“Normative Space-Time Ecologies” Norris and Armstrong • Ethnographic analysis of control rooms Norris and Armstrong’s book The Maximum Surveillance Society • Categorical judgment based on notions of ‘normality’ • Visual stereotypes used to define ‘abnormal’ people and behaviours and so mobilise law enforcement or exclusion • Black men, in certain dress, and groups of teenagers, main ‘targets’; women largely ignored except as targets for voyeuristic, sexualised, gaze
Towards Facial Recognition or “Algorithmic” CCTV • Trials in Newham, East London, late 1990s; US Superbowl, airport security • Also “gait recognition” (walking style) • Huge investment and R and D but still very ineffective on city streets • ”Unlike other biometrics [it] can operate anonymously in the background" (Koskela, 2003). • In future, may allow CCTV to extend to be a ‘5th Utility’? • Potentially a social and spatial tracking system monitoring named individuals and silently and continuously alerting security personnel of presence of know on potential offenders
The Racial and Social Politics of Facial Recognition • Various trials of facial recognition CCTV • Introna 2003 "for the top systems identification rates for males were 6% to 9% points higher than for females. Recognition rates for older people were higher than for younger people" (2003, 20). • Quotes the official report evaluating a trial which confirms that "Asians are easier [to recognise] than whites, African-Americans are easier than whites, [and] other race members are easier than whites" (FRVT, 2002) • See Graham’s “Software-sorted geographies”, PIHG, 2005.
2. “Smart Borders”: Passports and National ID Cards • Shift to digital and biometric passports and migration control • Possible even RFIDs: “ubiquitous borders” • Global tracking systems • Easier to identify and exclude ‘illegal’ migrants as they will not have parallel, biometric identifier moving with their bodies through the system • Uses agency of code to further separate acceptable/celebrated and demonised mobilities
3. Software-Sorted Services and Neoliberal Restructuring • New surveillance capabilities used to differentiated consumers, “unbundle” services, reduce risks and improve profitability from point of view of service suppliers • Everything from road space, train fares, internet packets, to call centre waiting times prioritised and treated differentially through surveillance • Underpins a “splintering urbanism”(Graham and Marvin, 2001)
Call Centre Queuing: The Politics of Invisible Bypass • E.g. “Automatic queue prioritization. This allows [service providers] to identify “high value” members. Calls from such members are automatically are bumped to the front of the phone queue so they’re answered immediately.”
The Post 9/11 “Surveillance Surge” • Ubiquitous anti-terror discourse undermines criticism and democratic debate: ‘chilling effect’ • Surveillance ‘creep’ as antiterrorism rationale added to others eg London Road Pricing • ‘Security’ mantra overwhelms civil, social and urban policy domains • Huge supply-push, as military industrial companies colonise civil markets with military technologies
Surveillance, Voyeurism, Exhibitionism • Surveillance increasingly celebrated, even fetishised, within popular culture • Deepening connection between CCTV capture, ordinary TV camera feeds, and broadcast TV/multimedia • Proliferation of digital video cameras and web cams • Surveillance blurs with simulation • Reality TV, crime and police chase shows, also dystopian movies like The Matrix and The Truman Show • Surveillance intrinsic to deepening celebrity culture and ‘society of spectacle’ (Guy Debord)
4. Jordan Crandall: Tracking, Militarization and ‘Armed Vision” • “While civilian images are embedded in processes of identification based on reflection, militarised perspectives collapse identification processes into “Id-ing” - a one-way channel of identification in which a conduit, a database, and a body are aligned and calibrated” (Crandall 1999) • “tracking is integral” to the emerging modes of governance and sovereign and military power based on anticipatory seeing. ” (Crandall 1999) • this widespread integration of computerised tracking with databases of ‘targets’ represent little but of “a gradual colonization of the now, a now always slightly ahead of itself” (Crandall 1999).
Jordan Crandall stresses: • Automated linkages of databases to sensors and tracking systems (airports, e-commerce, borders, GPS, road charging, oyster cards, algorithmic surveillance etc.) • Way these provide anticipatory forms of surveillance based on risk-profiling of people as ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous’ and automatic, military-style identification and tracking of the latter • Ways in which these form a system of what he calls ‘armed vision’
Conclusion: The Surveillant Assemblage (Kevin Haggerty) • Remediations of social control: Increasing interconnection, normalisation, automation, distanciation, globalisation, simulation • Closely related to application of neoliberal models of service and spatial restructuring: ‘premium’ services for targeted groups and increasingly problematic access for those deemed unprofitable or risky who are demonised, criminalised, or electronically pushed away • Might spaces without surveillance may become sources of fear? E.g. CCTV ‘5th utility’ idea • Digitisation of societal and social memory. Shift away from a politics or possibility of forgetting? • The ‘calculative background’ (Thrift) and politics of code increasingly shape social control, prioritisation, judgment, and geographies of power. But such code is hidden and very hard to excavate/research.
• But, not a simple shift to an all-seeing, ‘panoptic’ society! Multitude of overlapping and intersecting ‘Little Brothers’ rather than a single, panoptic, all-seeing Big Brother. • Not simple, authoritarian, centralisation. Often, extended surveillance is embraced, encouraged, constructed by subjects. • Multiple circuits, sites and geographies at play. Basis for service customisation, identity-self formation, popular culture etc. • As Koskella (2003) suggests, "urban space will always remain less knowable and, thus, less controllable than the restricted panoptic space". • Spaces which escape surveillance do and will remain. Amin and Thrift (2002, 128): ”the networks of control that snake their way through cities are necessarily oligoptic, not panoptic: they do not fit together. They will produce various spaces and times, but they cannot fill out the whole space of the city". • A politics of transgressing, resisting, and even dismantling inequitable surveillance is possible
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