The Inspection House: An Impertinent Field Guide to Modern Surveillance (Exploded Views)
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In 1787, British philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham conceived of the panopticon, a ring of cells observed by a central watchtower, as a labor-saving device for those in authority. While Bentham's design was ostensibly for a prison, he believed that any number of places that require supervision—factories, poorhouses, hospitals, and schools—would benefit from such a design. The French philosopher Michel Foucault took Bentham at his word. In his groundbreaking 1975 study, Discipline and Punish, the panopticon became a metaphor to describe the creeping effects of personalized surveillance as a means for ever-finer mechanisms of control.
Forty years later, the available tools of scrutiny, supervision, and discipline are far more capable and insidious than Foucault dreamed, and yet less effective than Bentham hoped. Shopping malls, container ports, terrorist holding cells, and social networks all bristle with cameras, sensors, and trackers. But, crucially, they are also rife with resistance and prime opportunities for revolution. The Inspection House is a tour through several of these sites—from Guantánamo Bay to the Occupy Oakland camp and the authors' own mobile devices—providing a stark, vivid portrait of our contemporary surveillance state and its opponents.
Tim Maly is a regular contributor to Wired, the Atlantic, and Urban Omnivore and is a 2014 fellow at Harvard University's Metalab.
Emily Horne is the designer and photographer of the webcomic A Softer World.
resulting sense of insecurity stemmed from the fact that our borders had been violated. The reflexive response was to hunker down behind traditional concepts of borders as lines of defense. All planes were grounded and our maritime as well as aviation borders were closed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Similarly, our land borders virtually shut down as each entering vehicle from Mexico and Canada was inspected thoroughly. The seizure was the result of a desperate attempt to understand where
Brown, an artist with the pro-privacy Surveillance Camera Players, an activist theatre group who perform specifically adapted plays directly in front of surveillance cameras, said in an interview in 2003: ‘Here, “theatre” is a very interesting word because the surveillance cameras are attempting to stage a theater of conformity, so that even before artists or Situationists arrived to see the dramatic potential, they’re already turning the streets into stages and people perform either by ignoring
forbore such enterprises any abuse of power to apprehend, the idea of an inspector’s presence would in the one case be a matter of indifference in the other case even of comfort. One of the major differences between Bentham and these titans of industry, of course, is that they had full access to deep pockets, whereas he struggled to get financial support for his ideas. Is it possible that the fine line between a brilliant designer and a crank might just be defined by adequate financing? After
watchers are being watched. We are being watched as well. This is a side effect of the proper functioning of our phones. In 2011, security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden discovered that you could extract a file from an iPhone that contained a bunch of location data. The file, designed to speed up location look-up, maintained a cached database of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers. Which, given that it would make no sense to cache locations never visited, could be used to get a pretty
Cryptome.org, 16 September 2004. Finnegan, William. ‘Watching the Waterfront.’ The New Yorker, 12 July 2006. Fisch, Joseph. ‘Investigation of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.’ State of New York Office of the Inspector General, August 2009. Fischer, James T. On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. Franz, Douglas. ‘Port Security: U.S. Fails to Meet Deadline for Scanning of Cargo Containers.’