Return of the panopticon? New super prisons in the UK

New Titan super-prisons have been proposed for the UK to deal with overcrowding:

 And yet the next generation of prisons is to be the Titan, giant super-prisons packed with biometric scanners and other gadgetry. Despite all this new technology, a quick glance at the early plans for the Titans conjure up echoes of their Victorian ancestors.

Dwarfing anything in the current system, a key quality will be “optimal sight lines which would result in better staff utilisation and deliver staff savings”.

Such a demand harks back to a crucial crossroads in the development of Britain’s prisons at the beginning of the 19th Century.

“To induce… a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary.”

This could be a criticism from one of the opponents of Britain’s “CCTV society”. In fact, it is from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s attack on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, a landmark concept in the British prison system.

Via BBC 


The Biopolitical Justification for Geosurveillance

My new article The Biopolitical Justification for Geosurveillance is about to come out in the Geographical Review.

Here’s the abstract and an image of the first page:

Abstract. Biopolitical use of geosurveillance can create and sustain a politics of fear. Although the majority of surveillance literature focuses on individuals, in this article I focus on groups and populations, drawing on Michel Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics. After discussing the forms and history of geosurveillance I argue that three particularly important factors contribute to this politics: divisions, geospatial technologies, and the risk-based society. In order to combat the negative unintended consequences of these factors I suggest that more attention be paid to the mutual relationships between geospatial technology and politics, rather than on assessments of the value of individual surveillant technologies.
Keywords: biopolitics, fear, geosurveillance, 9/11.


Gait DNA surveillance

Watch this video, made by UK video artist Chris Oakley made in 2004:


It’s a play on surveillance and, well:
Continue reading

Update on police spy drones

Last May I noted that the UK police were planning on implementing a remote control spy drone that can hover over crowds and perform unobtrusive surveillance.

The BBC is now carrying a story describing one of their first uses:

A remote control “spy helicopter” has been helping police patrol a major music festival.

Staffordshire Police have been using the CCTV drone for the first time at the V Festival site this weekend.

. . . . . .

Police said they expected to use the technology at future big events.

Ch Insp Pete Owen said: “We are delighted to be trialling the drone.

“It will work in addition to the CCTV that we will monitor on site throughout the festival.

“Our message to criminals is that we will be watching you and you will be arrested if you are caught on camera.”

This is classic police-speak. Since of course you don’t know who is a criminal beforehand, you have to watch everyone. So policing moves from punishing the convicted to treating everybody as potentially criminal: as dangerous (see, inter alia, Foucault “The Dangerous Individual” DE 220).


Passed on without comment:

a fabulous idea for a mashup… perhaps even an “internal” mashup to be put in place by the likes of MySpace, Facebook, etc… how about mashing the social network with state and county court records information or existing Sexual Predator mashups in order to mash a user profile with a record that shows that him or her is a recorded sexual predator?


Given that there’s public records widely available flagging those with criminal records this would indeed be a welcomed service for those users of the popular networking resources. A great example of a predator database built by accessing public records is the Florida Sexual Predators mashup – see details at

Surveillance: CTRL [SPACE]

Interesting book if I had a hundred bucks:

CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother.

Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, this timely catalog of the emerging genre of surveillance art is the first to compile critical essays discussing the history of surveillance, dating from Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon in 1787 to the present. The catalog includes many well-known Western artists and offers exposure to some who are lesser known. Curator and coeditor Levin has gathered a mixture of important original and previously published essays by some of the most respected postmodern theorists in this collection, among them Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Victor Burgin, and Slavoj Zizek. The layout mirrors the sensibility of the exhibit but is distracting, with overlapping type that can actually make reading the book difficult. This mammoth catalog includes biographies of the artists and authors, 950 illustrations (350 in color), and an exhibition checklist.

Rudy Giuliani: identify every “non-citizen”

Rudy Giuliani has proposed that every “non-citizen” in America should be identified and placed in a federal database:

The organizing purpose should be that our immigration laws should allow us to identify everyone who is in this country that comes here from a foreign country.

They should have a tamper-proof I.D. card. It should be in a database that allows you to figure out who they are, why they’re here, make sure they’re not illegal immigrants coming here for a bad purpose, and then to be able to throw out the ones who are not in that database.

Talk about a society of security! I can’t wait to receive my nice new ID card.