Monday, April 22, 2013

5 Doctoral Fellowships @ Darmstadt University

The Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt) is offering 5 doctoral fellowships in their grad school "Topologies of Technologies". Research at the graduate school is explicitely dedicated to the relationship between technologies and space. I think this is highly interesting for STS/surveillance researchers, because the question of space arises in particular with infrastructural technologies. In my own PhD research for example, where I analyse the development of a "smart" CCTV system, I asked myself how the spatial configuration of surveillance processes might be conceptualised - i.e. how relationships between operators in the control room and security staff on the ground are embedded within the surveillance system, in terms of distance/proximity and use of the monitored space. I still haven't come up with a satisfying answer, though :) Here's the announcement:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

STS research position @ Goldsmiths

I just saw this job offer at Goldsmiths in London. Seems to fit perfectly for people working at the intersection of STS and surveillance studies... Here's a detailed description of the post, and here's a brief summary of the research project:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Identification Practices

There's a very interesting project at Vienna University which looks at identification practices and technologies between the 19th and 21st century. They are three doctoral and post-doctoral students who work from an STS perspective on topics such as standardization of passports in the 1800s, fingerprinting in the 1900s, or algorithmic identification practices in the 21st century. I really like that they get to look at and compare old and new technologies, which is something that usually is too broad a scope for an individual dissertation.

Those in the German Area might want to check out their talk next week in Hamburg. Stephan Gruber, Daniel Meßner and Christoph Musik will talk with Nils Zurawski about promises of security and the development of identification technologies. The talk will take place April 23rd at 6 pm, at the institute for criminology, Allende Platz 1, room no. 250.

Here's a short project description form their website (check out the three individual contributions as well):

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Project: Zooming in

My current obsession is with ‘zooming in’: A and B below portray the same object (crime rates in a city), yet they look very different and lead to very different conclusions. How is zooming in accomplished in practice? What bodies of knowledges, skills and tools need to be drawn together to attain a close view? How can we describe it as a normative move?

I study a case of data mining in  Dutch crime policy to understand this. (The map below is fictional.)

PhD project: Laboratories of Crime Governance

In 2009 I started a PhD project  called 'Laboratories of crime governance: Experimenting surveillance in everyday life'. For this study I did ethnographic research on three pilot studies in the Netherlands. A new surveillance technology was introduced in an everyday policing practice in each of these pilots. My question is how experimenting with these new technologies affects crime governance, and vice versa.

I followed ticket inspectors in public transport to understand the use of synthetic DNA; I sat in a police control room to see how a technology for the acoustic detection of aggression was used; and I worked in a municipal crime policy department to learn about the use of data mining.

In the end (hopefully in 2013), I hope to be able to contribute to the literature about the following concepts: real-life experiments, surveillance and crime governance (in terms of authorities, the surveillance object, norms and governable space).

Some, very preliminary, and somewhat disorderly, outcomes:

Experiments are common in Dutch local crime control; they have become part of the repertoire of policy officials. Pilot studies may serve to test a technology but they can also have a demonstrative function, for instance be part of a media campaign.

My case studies did not introduce spectacular changes. In fact, they were labelled as ‘failed’, and they slowly died out.

Nevertheless, they performed a certain type of politics: in- and excluding local actors and practices from policing methods. For instance, in a pilot study on the acoustic detection of aggression, barking dogs and bus horns were excluded from aggression signals. These in- and exclusions were part of the changes in crime control we know so well, such as privatization and the deployment of ever more risk-based strategies.

Aggression is an important topic in the context of Dutch crime control and it was an explicit concern in two of my case studies. In these cases, however, aggression only existed as a somewhat clearly defined and delineated object in policy documents. Policemen and private security officers rarely referred to aggression; they worked with terms such as violence, insult, domestic violence and resistance. Surveillance technologies consequently did not only measure aggression; they introduced it.

Technologies, such as data mining, promise to ‘zoom in’: to see something in greater detail, with higher granularity. To see something closer, however, does not mean seeing the same thing better. In my fieldwork, it involved an effort to create a new target group. Zooming in by data mining was characterized by the visual practice of combining results on screens with other inscriptions, such as paper maps. In addition, it was a storytelling practice in which data mining results were folded in to neighbourhood politics, administrative knowledge and common theories.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Values in Design Workshop

The Values in Design Lab at the University of California Irvine holds its annual doctoral workshop. It is co-hosted by Geoffrey Bowker, whose books "Sorting Things Out" (co-authored with Susan L. Star) as well as "Memory Practices in the Sciences" are in my opinion highly relevant to the study of surveillance - many of you will already have come across these books. (At least in my own PhD research they helped me tremendously making sense of my empirical data) Our friend Göde attended last year and told great things about it. So if you can get the funding, you should check it out. Here's the original call:

Governing Algorithms

There's a conference at New York University on algorithms which sounds very cool. There are no registration fees, but you'll have to register. I really hope they'll upload the presentations and discussions on the internet... They have their own website with an interesting provocation piece, check it out. And here's the original call:

Monday, April 1, 2013

STS Italy Summer School

STS Summer School in Italy, June 12-16, 2013. About technologically dense environments (control rooms, obviously ...). What more can I say?

TILTing Perspectives 2013

The Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT) at Tilburg University in the Netherlands is organising a conference addressing the paradoxical distance and closeness created by technologies. A great theme for those with an interest in surveillance. The conference seeks to come to terms with questions such as: how will distance work out in daily life, in work, in friendships, and in care? Will the distribution of responsibilities and liability change if activities take place at distances in space and time in complex systems and global environments?

The deadline has passed but there is of course always the opportunity to attend on April 25 & 26, 2013.

PhD course: Situational Analysis in Qualitative Research Projects

Aalborg University is organising a PhD course in May and October 2013 about Adele Clarke's situational analysis. The emphasis of the course will be on Donna Haraway's understanding of situated knowledge, Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis, and Anselm Strauss' social world/arena theory. Deadline: May 8, 2013.