April CommQuote

This month’s quote is from an interesting article in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Volume 12, Issue 2, 2015), The Right to Hide? Anti-Surveillance Camouflage and the Aestheticization of Resistance by Torin Monahan.

“A curious trend is emerging in this era of pervasive surveillance. Alongside increasing public awareness of drone warfare, government spying programs, and big data analytics, there has been a recent surge in anti-surveillance tactics. While these tactics range from software for anonymous Internet browsing to detoxification supplements for fooling drug tests, what is particularly fascinating is the panoply of artistic projects—and products—to conceal oneself from ambient surveillance in public places. These center on the masking of identity to undermine technological efforts to fix someone as a unique entity apart from the crowd. A veritable artistic industry mushrooms from the perceived death of the social brought about by ubiquitous public surveillance: tribal or fractal face paint and hairstyles to confound face-recognition software, hoodies and scarves made with materials to block thermal emissions and evade tracking by drones, and hats that emit infrared light to blind camera lenses and prevent photographs or video tracking. Anti-surveillance camouflage of this sort flaunts the system, ostensibly allowing wearers to hide in plain sight—neither acquiescing to surveillance mandates nor becoming reclusive under their withering gaze. This is an aestheticization of resistance, a performance that generates media attention and scholarly interest without necessarily challenging the violent and discriminatory logics of surveillance societies.”  –pp. 159-160