RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2012

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189 Surveillant Geographies (2): Surveillance, Borders and Battlespace
Convenor(s) David Murakami Wood (Queen's University, Canada)
Chair(s) David Murakami Wood (Queen's University, Canada)
Timetable Wednesday 04 July 2012, Session 5 (17:20 - 19:00)
Room Appleton Tower - Room 2.14
Session abstract In this era of risk and security, surveillance is intensifying, expanding, rescaling and reterratorializing. New organisational practices, new technologies and new spaces of surveillance are replacing, adding to or overlaying existing forms. Surveillance is becoming something that is far removed from the binaries of State/Citizen, Public/Private or Self/Other. Surveillance is both being globalized and at the same time enables neoliberal economic globalization and military power projection. But beyond this there is a complex and contingent spatiality and temporality to surveillance. Nation-states and national cultures still matter, however, the most significant differences are not national. Surveillance is increasingly not only targeted at the unwilling masses, but is something embraced by a mobile global elite to ensure the predictability and safety of in the spaces in which they live and work. Specialized marketing combined with revanchist redevelopment are generating material and virtual sociospatial forms that come with surveillance ‘built in’. At the same time, globalization means a shift to more fragmented, uneven and dangerous spaces for many, where what is not seen matters as much as what is. There is an emerging geography of secure and surveilled enclaves counterposed to spaces of exclusion and disappearance, at every scale. Surveillance is also becoming a feature of everyday interpersonal practice through social media and consumer culture, and this too has complex relationships with the construction of space.

This session has been organised with support from the Surveillance Studies Network.
Linked Sessions Surveillant Geographies (1): Surveillance in Everyday Life
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2012@rgs.org
Towards a Political Economy of Global Surveillance
David Murakami Wood (Queen's University, Canada)
Security v Hospitality in airports - a pyrrhic victory?
Erwin Losekoot (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
Airports are some of the most monitored spaces in the world today. The increase in terrorist activity has led to increasingly intrusive security arrangements for travellers using airports, often requiring a significant change in consumer behaviour. This comes at the same time as airports try to reinvent themselves as a post-modern consumerist consumption experience where privatised airport management companies seek to maximise revenue opportunities through customer-focused service offerings, instead of a transport hub at the end of 'the dreaded airport run'. By conducting research into the geography of airport security and the nature of a hospitable experience, it should be possible to establish acceptable levels of security in an airport envirnment. Through a series of interviews with airport management and security personnel, participant observation, as well as travel blogs, this research seeks to understand the airport consumer's attitude to the current measures designed to provide secure spaces, and whether it is still possible to offer a culturally-nuanced customer experience that can leave the traveller with the perception of a hospitable environment while at the same time enabling the authorities to provide a secure environment for travellers and those operating at the airport.
Here? There? Everywhere? Nowhere? Mapping NSA warrantless wiretapping sites and your internet traffic through them
Andrew Clement (University of Toronto, Canada)
The internet is popularly presented as a placeless, ubiquitous ʻcloudʼ, in which personal transactions are in principle universally subject to surveillance by state agencies. While the particular nature of the surveillance remains unclear, the conventional understanding is that it can be conducted on nearly everyone, everywhere. Spy agencies compound the confusion and spread suspicion by adamantly refusing to discuss the nature and extent of their surveillance operations. In fact, however, internet routing and storage is done in relatively few, quite specific locations, and any wide-reaching surveillance needs to performed at just those key locations through quite precise technical and organizational arrangements.

This paper explores the seemingly contradictory spatial features of internet backbone surveillance by reporting on the IXmaps research project that is mapping internet routing in North America. The IXmaps.ca tool renders visible the paths data packets take across the internet together with pertinent features of the switching, storage and interception facilities along the way. Drawing on the revelations of former AT&T technician turned whistleblower, Mark Klein, who documented the installation of NSA “splitter” facilities in AT&Tʼs regional switching centre in San Francisco and other US cities, together with established techniques for geo-locating IP addresses of internet routers, we are able to show an individual using Google Earth the routes their own internet traffic take and which routes pass through sites reasonably suspected of NSA interception capability. We use these examples to develop a more nuanced account of the spatial characteristics of internet backbone surveillance and their implications for personal and collective response.
Pattern Recognitions: Dynamic Network Analysis, Database Management, and the Taming of Battlespace in Southern Afghanistan
Oliver Belcher (University of British Columbia, Canada)
December 2009 is usually remembered as the month President Obama briefly embraced counterinsurgency and infused the Afghan occupation with another “surge” of 30,000 soldiers intent on winning the hearts and minds of the population, while simultaneously diffusing the Taliban insurgency. However, two other decisive events during that fateful December may very well shape how the history of the Afghan war is written in the annals of American empire. First, a research team led by the renowned MIT computer scientist Alex “Sandy” Pentland won a high profile contest sponsored by the U.S. military research wing, DARPA, by locating ten 8-foot-wide red balloons distributed throughout the United States in just under nine hours. Pentland’s MIT Media Lab is a trailblazer in an emerging field around information-gathering called “reality mining” used to track down the balloons—which takes aggregates of what his team calls “digital traces,” and then models them in order to render, shape and predict human behaviour and social networks. Pentland has successfully courted influential military officials into using “reality mining” and dynamic social network analysis for what he calls “computational counterinsurgency” (cf. Shachtman 2011). Second, in late December, and only weeks after the Pentland team’s success, the top intelligence official in Afghanistan, Major General Michael Flynn, publicly published an influential report which criticized the dearth of actionable intelligence on “cultural and social fabric” of Afghanistan in general, and the make-up of the insurgency in particular. Since Flynn’s report, the U.S. military has invested heavily in computationally-based methods for modelling “cultural intelligence” in Afghanistan, incorporating primarily the “dynamic network analysis” approach of Pentland and others (e.g., in the mega-DARPA project, Nexus 7). This paper interrogates the methodological presuppositions at work in dynamic network analysis, and its use in predicting and modelling uncertain insurgent activity in battlespace. If, following Michel Foucault, a “referent”—in this case, “insurgent activity”—is both the condition and consequence of knowledge practices, this paper will ask how networks (that is, pattern recognitions) are constructed in southern Afghanistan as a particular kind of militarized way-of-seeing.
Hiding in Plain Sight – A Historical Geography of Subverting Aerial Surveillance
Isla Forsyth (University of Glasgow)
By considering the historical geography of military camouflage’s darker patterning, as a technology to resist, subvert and ensnare enemy aerial reconnaissance, this paper will historicise geographies of surveillance and military geovisual technologies. In particular this will be narrated from the perspective of WWII camoufleurs who developed deceptive techniques to undermine and trick aerial surveillance and bombers. The military will, therefore, not be figured as in conflict with an enemy other, instead its “inner life” will be dissected in order to trace the competition to evolve ever more effective methods and technologies of observing, targeting, subverting and deceiving. Through anticipated technological innovations and military paranoia, the diverse knowledges, disciplines and skills the military have and continue to utilise will be explored to create a narrative exposing the creativity, cunning and violence of observing and subverting aerial surveillance. By following the WWII camoufleurs who craned their gaze skywards to consider the fluidity and freedom of surveillance from on high, while also working closely with the earth’s surface, by attending to its simultaneous geographies of openness and deception, these two perspectives will be brought into dialogue. Thus, this is an account of the angular geographies in between surveyor and surveyed, born through the military’s creative engagement with multiple disciplines and experts in their ever-evolving game of cat-and-mouse between aerial surveillance and grounded resistance.