Disrecognized Space

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New Media: Communications in the Electronic Age – Assignment One

Section 1: Essay questionThe nature of digital media makes surveillance increasingly pervasive and unavoidable. Assess in what ways sousveillance represents a response to digital surveillance. Is sousveillance an effective form of resistance to surveillance?

Section 2: Annotated bibliography

Braman, Sandra 2006, ‘Tactical memory: The politics of openness in the construction of memory’, First Monday, vol. 11, No. 7 (July 2006), viewed 12 June 2012,
Braman provides a theoretical discussion of the “openness movement” and its push for democratic availability of information and its relationship to tactical and political memory (strangely though, the “openness movement” itself remains ill-defined by her).

She provides an historical framework, linked to the panopticon and 16th century notions of ‘ownership’ but notes that recent technology has created new potentials for surveillance, dataveillance and alterations to what privacy means. Like the other authors noted here, she redefines the panopticon, in her case as the ‘panspectron’.

She discusses sousveillance under the heading of ‘voluntary exposure’, relating this also the other media forms such as blogs. While sousveillance only forms a part of her paper (and much of it also relates to US examples of legislation and surveillance) her paper locates sur/sousveillance as part of the overall data ecology that exists now, as well as offering a number of recommendations for how this world of data can also be used against itself (such as deliberately choosing which technologies to engage or not engage with). It therefore provides a useful linking of issues to be discussed in my essay to a wider context.

Ganascia, Jean-Gabriel 2011, ‘The new ethical trilemma: Security, privacy and transparency’, Comptes rendus – Physique, vol. 12, no. 7, pp. 684-692, doi:10.1016/j.crhy.2011.07.002.
Ganascia discusses issues arising from potential developments in nanotechnology. While these developments are currently only possibilities, the paper does enumerate issues that may arise from the very real cultural conflict between privacy and surveillance. With the creation of ‘nano-panopticons’ surveillance can become invisible but all pervasive when linked to the ‘digital nano-panopticon’. He also makes a pertinent conclusion that such technology creates ongoing questions of balancing the ethical dimensions of privacy and surveillance.

This article is interesting because it casts very real concerns about surveillance (and sousveillance) in the light of where technology may take it in the near future and thus reflects why this tension is an important issue today.

Hope, Andrew 2005, ‘Panopticism, play and the resistance of surveillance: Case studies of the observation of student internet use in UK Schools’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 359-373.
In this paper Hope looks at surveillance, and how resistance to surveillance (including by sousveillance) operates in the context of UK school students. He situates this in a conceptual framework from Bentham’s panopticon, through Foucault, to the digital ‘super-panopticon’ linked to databases. He found that resistance to the controls of surveillance were widespread amongst his sample, including reversing surveillance (sousveillance) by attempts to hack the control systems.
Hope relates these activities as blending both play and resistance. This provides some interesting points for my essay: a view of the historical continuum of surveillance and resistance, as well as a case study that can be (carefully!) related to the wider world. Particular points are that resistance is not an activity isolated from other aspects of culture, as well as how digital media both increases surveillance and opportunities for resistance.

Mann, Steve, Nolan, Jason & Wellman, Barry 2003, ‘Sousveillance: Inventing and using wearable computing devices for data collection in surveillance environments’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 331-355.
In this paper Mann and his co-authors discuss the principle of sousveillance as inverse panopticon in contrast to increasingly invisible surveillance. Mann coined the term ‘sousveillance’ so this paper is significant in its authorial imprimatur and thus a main focus for the themes of my essay. It provides a basis for defining sousveillance, its intent and function so providing a conceptual framework to analyse sousveillance with.

The authors discuss sousveillance as a method to alter the power balance of surveillance – utilising the tools of the powerful to rebalance and protect privacy. The paper provides a historical basis for this concept, as well as discussing wearable devices (a particular focus for Mann), and giving a number of cases studies (or ‘performances’ as the authors describe them).

Tække, Jesper 2011, ‘Digital panopticism and organizational power’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 441-454.
In this paper Tække attempts to provide a theoretical framework discussing specifically the subjects of surveillance and power (which are, of course, linked if varying in importance and visibility). He makes his points in the context of organisations and employees which, while not directly relevant to my essay topic as such, still provides many thoughts about digital media and surveillance. He notes how new media have destabilised power/surveillance structures, though there is still a strong duality between power (expressed or implied) and the observed, as well as issues of trust raised by these fields. The impact of new media facilitating storage and retrieval of communication to great new extents is also discussed. The themes and issues Tække raises are thus important to my topic since, while he uses organisations in his paper, these problems extend to surveillance and dualities of power and resistance in other fields.

Section 3: Essay plan

Essay question: The nature of digital media makes surveillance increasingly pervasive and unavoidable. Assess in what ways sousveillance represents a response to digital surveillance. Is sousveillance an effective form of resistance to surveillance?

I. INTRODUCTION
Aim / purpose To assess sousveillance as a response to the new challenges of digital surveillance and as a practical form of resistance to digital surveillance, showing that it is of limited use in isolation but forms one of a range of responses to surveillance that can be used in combination.
Specify limits / scope 2,000 words.
Limited to digital media.
Discussion of social/power/technology interfaces, but limited to their articulations with sur/sousveillance.
Media/culture focus.
Key points for discussion • Definition of digital surveillance
• How digital surveillance is different from past surveillance
• The panopticon
• What is sousveillance? Examples of sousveillance.
• How does sousveillance resist surveillance, and is this effective?
Summary of Essay argument Digital media increase the reach of surveillance, both geographically and in terms of data accumulated. Sousveillance is an attempt at resistance to this. While sousveillance is a niche activity it cannot defeat or undermine surveillance, though it does represent one of a number of ways that can combine to achieve this end.

II. BODY (your key paragraphs/sections within your essay)
Point 1
Topic Sentence Digital media makes surveillance increasingly present, both in terms of the physical reach and the data accumulated with it.
Summary of supporting argument Digital surveillance can be omnipresent, invisible and always on (Graham & Wood 2003, p. 228). There is no (theoretical) limit to the data accumulated, unlike human based surveillance. Data can be stored and automatically searched much faster and more widely. Loss of privacy is increased through digital surveillance (Tække 2011, p. 442).
Point 2
Topic Sentence The panopticon, devised by Jeremy Bentham, is now being realised in electronic, digital forms.
Summary of supporting argument Surveillance has a long history. Brief history of the ‘panopticon’. Foucault and the panopticon (Foucault 1995, p. 200). Digital surveillance extends the reach of the panopticon beyond the visual, including into people’s bodies and thoughts (Braman 2006; Ganascia 2011, p. 686; Hope 2005, p. 362). The various digital panopticons (current and postulated) and how they increasingly enter into everyday life and into private spaces. Digital surveillance in contrast to previous (non-digital) surveillance is therefore different, and more far-reaching, than non-digital forms. The public sphere is being reduced. Surveillance can be invisible. So much data is gathered it has to be sorted by computers. The possibility for error is increased. The process of surveillance can therefore be seen as both increasingly pervasive and meaningless.
Point 3
Topic Sentence Sousveillance represents an attempt at resisting the growing prevalence of digital surveillance.
Summary of supporting argument Origin of ‘sousveillance’. Meaning of ‘sousveillance’ in contrast to ‘surveillance’. Sousveillance observes the observers as a political and power-inverting act of resistance.
Point 4
Topic Sentence Sousveillance can be realised in a number of different ways, from ‘wearable’ computing, to a number of other strategies.
Summary of supporting argument Mann’s meaning of sousveillance and his implementation of it (Mann, Nolan & Wellman 2003, p. 332). Other examples of sousveillance in different contexts (Braman 2006; Hope 2005, p. 367).
Point 5
Topic Sentence Sousveillance, on its own, has not stopped digital surveillance which continues to expand and, in this sense, it could be perceived as a failed experiment.
Summary of supporting argument Lack of effective examples of sousveillance functioning as a resistant activity. Sousveillance remains a largely niche, neglected activity.
Point 6
Topic Sentence Sousveillance, however, cannot be considered a failure simply because it is not a dominant activity (such a result would indicate it is not, then, a form of resistance) but should be considered one of a number of ways of countering digital surveillance.
Summary of supporting argument Sousveillance often used in conjunction with other ways of resisting surveillance such as encryption, social methods etc (Hope 2005, p. 369; Graham & Wood 2003, p. 244). Resistant activities of all types often use such a multifactorial approach since they are, by definition, not mainstream. Multiple resistances become more effective than one, easy to suppress, method.

III. CONCLUSION
Restate main points. Make any allusions to further research / direction of topic Digital media makes surveillance increasingly omnipresent, always on, and able to gather and store amounts of data that no human could do. Sousveillance represents an activity at resisting this growing digital panopticon in an effort to reassert autonomy, power and privacy. Sousveillance remains a niche activity but, combined with numerous other forms of resistance, might provide an effective method of achieving such goals.

References
Braman, Sandra 2006, ‘Tactical memory: The politics of openness in the construction of memory’, First Monday, vol. 11, No. 7 (July 2006), viewed 12 June 2012,
Foucault, Michel (1995), Discipline & punish: The birth of the prison, New York: Vintage Books – Random House, First published in 1975, translation 1977 Alan Sheridan.
Ganascia, Jean-Gabriel 2011, ‘The new ethical trilemma: Security, privacy and transparency’, Comptes rendus – Physique, vol. 12, no. 7, pp. 684-692, doi:10.1016/j.crhy.2011.07.002.
Graham, Stephen & Wood, David (2003), ‘Digitizing surveillance: Categorization, space, inequality’, Critical Social Policy, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 227-248.
Hope, Andrew 2005, ‘Panopticism, play and the resistance of surveillance: Case studies of the observation of student internet use in UK Schools’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 359-373.
Mann, Steve, Nolan, Jason & Wellman, Barry 2003, ‘Sousveillance: Inventing and using wearable computing devices for data collection in surveillance environments’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 331-355.
Tække, Jesper 2011, ‘Digital panopticism and organizational power’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 441-454.

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