the dictionary definition of surveillance is:
Close observation, especially of a suspected spy or criminal
take a few minutes to make a drawing of surveillance.
what did you come up with? describe to the group some of the elements in your sketches. maybe they include:
let's incorporate some of the recurring themes in your sketches into the dictionary definition to flesh it out. that'll be our working defintion, and we'll revisit it at the end of the workshop.
many conversations about surveillance begin with the panopticon. imagined by jeremy bentham and popularized by michel foucault in discipline and punish, the panopticon is a circular architectural structure with a central watchpost in the center from which a single guard could theoretically see many of the building's occupants at once.
the watchpost's most important feature: visibility is only one-way; the guard can see out of it, but the building's occupants can't see into the watchpost, so they never actually know for sure whether they're being watched or not.
it's the classic symbol of social control through the threat of surveillance, and foucault uses it as an analytical tool to talk about how power operates in places like prisons, hospitals, and schools.
many conversations about surveillance begin with the panopticon, but sociologist simone browne argues in her book dark matters: on the surveillance of blackness that we should consider another architecture alongside bentham's panopticon: the hold of the slave ship.
in 1749, a french inventor named jacques-françois guillauté pitched the idea of a complex system of 12-foot paper-filing wheels for keeping tabs on the city of paris. political scientist and legal scholar bernard harcourt describes the invention and how it fits in with guillaté's larger plan for the city:
what's the relationship of the paper-squeeze to the database?
the last technology we'll talk about is a photographic one with roots in the history of photography and statistics. the mugshot was conceived by alphonse bertillon, a police officer, as a way of documenting criminality that he believed was visible on the body. along with cesare lombroso, an italian doctor, bertillon developed the tools and methodologies that became the foundation of criminology.
through comparisons of mugshots, bodily measurements and fingerprints, they attempted to find what scholar dana seitler describes in her article queer physiognomies: or, how many ways can we do the history of sexuality? as “a noncontradictory sign that would organize and align a series of sexual practices, social behaviors, and medical etiologies within a readable image.” in other words, they were interested in uncovering essential, biological characteristics of deviancy in order to better predict criminality in others.
bernard harcourt situates the history of statistics in the same context. he writes in against prediction: “the proliferation of numbers helped create the categories of the normal, criminal, and pathological in the nineteenth century.”
why do you think this program failed? are there ways it could have been fixed or did the framing of the project and problem themselves prevent this approach from yielding results? what kinds of results might it have yielded if it had been successful, and how would you evaluate whether it was worthwhile? whose input would you need?
we've spent some time looking at examples of historical surveillance technologies and cases of contemporary surveillance.
let's revisit the definition we came up with at the beginning. does it still work or are there things we should change?