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

Electronic Surveillance/NSA Resource

New 13_oto Penn Libraries e-resources is the Electronic Surveillance and the National Security Agency: From Shamrock to Snowden (Electronic Surveillance), a collection of “leaked and declassified records documenting U.S. and allied electronic surveillance policies, relationships, and activities.This archive is part of a suite of resources available from the Digital National Security Archive (also known as the DNSA) which includes many other interesting US and international diplomacy, crises, and human rights collections. While the largest chunk of documents come from the post 9/11 era (761 documents), there are 73 documents from 1958-1976, 95 documents from 1977-2000, and 66 undated documents.

I would like to amend the statement in the finding aid, under Research Value of the Set, to include communication as one of the fields to which these materials could be of great relevance.

  • U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities and activities
  • legal issues concerning electronic surveillance
  • computer network exploitation and cybersecurity
  • intelligence liaison
  • foreign SIGINT Activities
  • U.S. foreign relations
  • security studies
  • international relations
  • U.S. policy making
  • the Ford, George W. Bush, and Obama presidencies
  • communication studies


October CommQuote

This month’s quote comes from Index on Censorship (Volume 43, Number 03; Autumn 2014) which features a special section on the future of journalism.  The lead piece, Back to the Future, by Iona Craig proffers cautionary insight on surveillance technologies and journalistic freedom.

“Governments going after journalists is nothing new. But what is increasingly apparent is that those listening and watching when we work in countries infamous for their consistent stifling of freedom of speech and obstruction of a free press, are often doing so with the infrastructure, equipment or direct support of supposedly ‘liberal’ Western nations…home_cover (2)

Until encrypted mobile phone communication becomes more affordable and commonplace, we may have to go back in time–meeting in person rather than leaving a data trail.”

–Iona Craig, Back to the Future, Index on Censorship, 43:3, pp. 11, 12