Tag: Surveillance

Envisioning a Different Park: Border Walls, Transborder Ties, and Militarized Ecologies

When news broke out on January 20th, 2021, that newly inaugurated President Joe Biden signed a proclamation ending Trump’s Executive Order 9844, which declared a national emergency at the U.S. southern border, funneling emergency funds to construct his infamous border wall, immigrant rights activists and leaders rejoiced. Biden’s proclamation explicitly called to “pause work on each construction project on the southern border wall.” Yet, the next day, construction crews replacing the existing 18-foot border fence with the 30-foot rusted steel border wall between San Diego and Tijuana carried on with business as usual. (read more...)

Indian Food Delivery Networks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past decade, the concept of the gig economy has gained momentum in academic discourse. Often linked to temporary employment created by multinational technological corporations through digital platforms, the gig economy has transformed conventional discourses of labor and economy. It brought to the fore the increased precarity in employment, transformed modes of mobilization, fueled workers’ unionizing efforts, and produced new vocabularies (Vallas and Schor 2020; Khreiche 2018). In India’s dynamic economic landscape, these changes are particularly visible. One can argue that the use of digital technologies has reached a new peak in the ongoing global pandemic–as we have observed the changes in techno-bio-political regimes associated with COVID-19-tracking and increased reliance on mobile applications (Battin 2020; Segata 2020). In this light, focusing on India in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes especially useful considering the narratives of hegemony and precarity often associated with gig labor within this geographical context, (read more...)

Quantum Arms Race

A lot has been said and written about the impending unleashing of quantum technology in the world. Whereas many sing paeans to the potential of the technology to better the world, many a soothsayers forebode a much grimmer reality. While the future might sound alien, it evokes, frankly, familiar feelings in the minds of those who imagine. We’ve all witnessed the world transform in front of our eyes in the past century, from this tech revolution to that, from nuclear promises of infinite power to laser-sharp visions of cameras better than the human eye; such is the oxymoronic, remarkable mundaneness of technological progress that the more the world changes, the more it remains the same. One might even be forgiven for feeling a sense of security at the thought of a world run by quantum technology. After all, the great leaps forward have all served us well and promise more. (read more...)

STS and Electoral Politics

In the context of the upcoming US presidential election and increasing evidence of the importance of voting infrastructure, this week we revisit past posts that highlight the key role STS must play in these conversations. (read more...)

40: Quarantine & The Origins of Computation

Quarantine is a number. Quarantine was the name given to the strategy of isolating potentially harmful populations for forty days in an effort to impede potential dangers. Deriving from the Italian word for forty (quaranta), alongside quarantines there existed the trentine (thirty) and sessantine (sixty), each defined by the number of days of mandated isolation. The word took its meaning following the Black Death and subsequent waves of plague. It was first legally enforced in Ragusa (Dubrovnik today) in 1377. Today, especially at this precise moment, quarantine is rather estranged from this history. (read more...)

Surveillant Materialities of Migrant (Im)mobility: Reconceptualizing Border Technologies

After lunch on the day I arrived at Casa Begoña Migrant Shelter in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México, Doña Paquita, a shelter director, came to fetch me from the comedor, or the dining space, outside the back of the shelter.[1]  “I want clear information so I know what to tell El Padre [the priest] in case he asks about why you are here.” She stopped walking once we were in the waiting room in front of the kitchen and quickly pointed to the video camera at the left corner. “El Padre sees everything. The camera is always on, it’s recording and transmits to his office.” (read more...)

Managing Refugee Mobilities: Global Flows of Migration Deterrence Technologies

In 2000, a United Nations Resolution designated June 20th World Refugee Day. In the week leading up to this day, countries throughout the world pay homage to the ideals of the refugee rights movement through public festivals celebrating their migrant communities’ cultures, social media campaigns on refugee resilience, and declarations of their commitment to protect those seeking asylum. Historically, nation-states have employed such public messages to emphasize their identities as benevolent, humanitarian actors.  However, what these proclamations elide is not only the violent ways that individual nations reject asylum seekers[1], but the collective ways that countries work together to inhibit their mobilities. Both the technologies of detection and deterrence as well as anti-refugee rhetoric, while based on insular ideas of nationhood and ‘who belongs,’ are also increasingly dependent on collaborations and partnerships with other nation-states. In attempts to control refugee movement, multiple nation states are both entangled and willingly involved in a global effort to contain, reroute, and eventually immobilize asylum seekers from the global South seeking protection in liberal democratic states. While there has always been an international refugee regime since the inception of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it is worth paying attention to the new ways in which nation states are learning from and relying upon each other to govern where refugees can and cannot go. (read more...)

‘Dynamic Totalities’: Data Surveillance as a Paradigm

In the zeitgeist of academia, surveillance has clearly an ominous connotation. However, is surveillance not fundamentally a way of looking? More formally, a way of looking at totalities. Whatever is studied, observed, or measured is part of a definitive totality. A virus is part of a sample. Families are part of a community. Workers are part of the factory. A scientist is part of a laboratory. One reason we are cautious about speaking of totalities is because we are scared of being reductive. But what if we could dynamically measure parameters defining the totalities which concern us. What if we could define our totalities at will and observe phenomena within its boundaries, track phenomena flowing out of it, or ingressing it? If this sounds like an uncanny  ‘intelligent’ camera or rather a poetic job re-description of the individual in the CCTV room, then it is meant to be so. Data surveillance can offer perhaps a fresh paradigm for observation and analysis irrespective of the actual use of computers that enable it. (read more...)