Autosurveillance and Affordances of Personal Agency and Security Curator: Suneel Jethani, University of Melbourne | June 2017
Collection Editors: Andrew Iliadis and Isabel Pedersen
Collection Archivist: Sharon Caldwell
This collection looks at the dual nature of surveillance as afforded through technologies that can be worn on the body. The panopticon metaphor is often evoked as a point of departure in discussions of the surveillant tendencies within the technocratic management of everyday life. As an architectural model, and by extension a material technology, the Bentham/Foucault panopticon demonstrates how human-to-human, human-to-technology, and technology-to- human information flows can be structured with an symmetries that subject to surveillance forms of surveillance where there is an ambivalence towards the physical presence of someone or something mediating surveillance.
Forms of participatory surveillance, such as those afforded by the devices presented here, can align the participatory, mediating, and evidentiary affordances of wearable technology in ways that shapes the translation and automation of intentionality. The important task in studying wearable surveillance technologies, is to understand how participation is established in any given situation where surveillance is established. Wearable technology is a "specific iteration of panoptic surveillance’ that links it to feelings of personal agency and security "(Albrechtslund and Lauritsen , 2013, p.3 11).
By foregrounding the tensions within these intra and inter-affordance relations through consideration of the items presented in the collection, a more nuanced critique of self-tracking’s relationship to human agency can be formed. The collection comprises of a wide array of materials ranging from academic articles, patents, and promotional material relating to existing and forthcoming devices. In reading these materials together under the umbrella of participatory surveillance, a range of technological frames and product semantics become apparent. These frames of reference define "the study of the symbolic qualities of [wearable devices] in the context of their use, and [the] application of this use to industrial design"(Krippendorff and Butter 1984 cited in You and Chen, 2001, p. 26). The assumption within the product semantics of many of the devices collected here is that the device itself serves in the communication of its own meaning. This collection seeks to challenge that assumption.