Hille Koskela’s new book

pelkoTop Finnish surveillance studies academic, Hille Koskela, has a new book out, Pelkokierre – pelon politiikka, turvamarkkinat ja kamppailu kaupunkitilasta (‘The Spiral of Fear. Politics of Fear, Security Business, and the Struggle over Urban Space’). It looks like a fine addition to the literature on fear, security and surveillance, but unfortunately I can’t read it – as it’s in Suomi. Great cover though!

It should of course be translated into English and made available by an English-language publisher, but I doubt this will happen. Publishers don’t like to take what they consider to be a risk by publishing academic work from foreign countries, so unless the author is very famous or dead (or preferably both) it doesn’t happen. We tried very hard to get Michalis Lianos’s very important French book on control society published by an English-language publisher, with many supporting letters and so on, but there was no real interest.

Anyway, Hille has sent me a translation of the table of contents, which are:

1. The paradoxes of security

2. Birth of the security society
Relevant theories in sociology, social policy, geography, architecture, media studies, law and IR

3. The ontology of fear
The social production of fear, the spatial and temporal patterns, fear  as a commodity, streetwise semiotics

4. Fear in everyday life
Housing, workplaces, SUVs, public transport, tourism, child rearing,  ‘threatening’ teenagers, high school massacres

5. The architecture of fear
The classic ideas of Jacobs and Newman, contemporary architecture in public and private spaces, gating, surveillance

6. The politics of fear
Legislation (the public order act etc.), national and local security strategies, urban security politics, ‘the war’ on graffiti

7. The economy of fear
Security services, technology and other security products, images of place, crime and fear in the media

8. Towards a culture of tolerance

Japanese surveillance studies researchers

Somebody's watching you... office workers walk past an installation in Shinjuku station, Tokyo
Somebody's watching you... office workers walk past an installation in Shinjuku station, Tokyo

We’ve met with several Japanese surveillance studies researchers whilst out here this time. I mentioned Ogura Toshimaru already the other day, but we also had a long meeting the week before with Hino Kimihiro, a researcher into bohan machizukuri (community security development), and government advisor on security planning. Dr Hino has been carrying out a number of research projects on both ‘designing out crime’ and on the effectiveness and public acceptability of CCTV in Japan. I hadn’t come across this research before as my contacts here were mainly in social sciences and law and Dr Hino tends to publish in urban planning journals and is not connected to other Japanese surveillance researchers. His work is very interesting and reminiscent of that of Martin Gill or Farrington and Welsh in the UK. It is a shame, that just like those researchers who have carried out analyses of CCTV for the UK Home Office, his assessments tend to be ignored by the government. Dr Hino’s latest project is to assess the trials of a new movement recognition system in Kawasaki city. I hope he can come to the January Camera Surveillance workshop at Queen’s University, Ontario, or the April Surveillance & Society conference in London (details coming soon!).

I also met today with Tajima Yasuhiko, a professor of media law in the School of Journalism at Jochi (Sophia) University in Tokyo. Professor Tajima has been one of the most important critical voices in the debate about surveillance in Japan, and has bridged the academic and activist world, being involved with legal action against juki-net and Google StreetView. We had a productive conversation about the politics of surveillance in Japan and the prospects for critical voices to be heard. He wasn’t optimistic that they would be, and neither am I after our meeting at the Prime Minister’s IT Strategic JQ the other day, however I am also convinved that in many ways Japan has not yet gown as coordinated and centralised a route on issues of security and surveillance as has the UK. There is, so far as I can see, no real attempt to link up things like juki-net or other databases and the anshin anzen (or bohan) machizukuri agenda, and i-Japan, national and local police, and wider community security agendas do not really coordinate at all. This is due to the lack of an obvious ‘threat’ like that of terrorism in the UK, around which such coordination can occur. The government half-heartedly tries to get people worried about North Korea, but really they aren’t, and ‘ageing society’, whilst a phrase used to justify almost anything (including central databases) is a worry, it does not generate the fear that comes with the war on terror.

We also considered the relative weakness of Japanese civil liberties organisations and the failure of the mainstream media to pick up on issues of privacy and surveillance. There seems to be some effort now to try to coordinate various organisations to push for an explicit constitutional protection for privacy (rather than the rather vague inclusion of such an idea in a wider notion of the ‘pursuit of happiness’), but whilst I can see that being happily accepted after the government has got its central database(s), I can’t see it being done in time to alter either this trajectory or the way in which the database(s) are built.

I’ve been promoted

It’s official, I’ve been promoted to ‘Reader in Surveillance Studies’ (equivalent to Associate Professor) at Newcastle. Unfortunately I’m leaving very soon, but it was nice to get the recognition of the university, even if I can only hold the title for just one month!

I would just like to say a public thank-you to those who both supported and refereed the application – officially, I don’t know who you all are, but I have my suspicions! And also a big thanks to everyone involved with Surveillance & Society and the Surveillance Studies Network because, to be honest, I would be nowhere without all of you.

The Expansion of Surveillance Studies

I’ve been away in Scotland at a special seminar organised by Mike Nellis, Kirstie Ball and Richard Jones, hence the lack of posts this week. It has been based in the Institute of Advanced Studies at Strathclyde, a place set up to encourage ‘unconstrained thinking’, but to aid this still further, two of the days were on the island of Jura where wireless is still something you listen to. The other people involved were Michael Nagenbourg from Germany, who is also involved with an ongoing project on human implantation with myself and Kirstie, Anders Albrechtslund from Denmark, Mark Renzema from the USA, Francisco Klauser from Switzerland (via Durham!), Kevin Haggerty from Canada and David Wills from England, whose PhD I examined not so long ago. Charles Raab also joined us for the days in Glasgow, although he didn’t come to Jura, and we had a talk from Jim Frazer, a DNA expert.

We were on Jura because it was the place where George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four during 1946 and 1947, whilst he was also dying of tuberculosis. We couldn’t visit his cottage (it is a long way beyond the end of the main road), but we spent two days in the company of Ken McLeod, one of my favourite contemporary science fiction writers, whose most recent books, The Execution Channel and The Night Sessions feature surveillance as a key element of both world and plot. The aim seems to have been to rethink everything we thought we knew about surveillance through both traditional seminar session but also through the consideration of scenarios and of course, sf writing, films and even computer games.

And I have to say it has worked. I am not quite sure what conclusions I have come to but I have been shaken out of a kind of complacency that affects us all about what we just ‘do’ and what we take for granted in order to enable this. For me, this has been particularly important because my current project is specifically designed to rethink and shake up ideas around ‘surveillance’ and ‘surveillance society’, but perhaps I have not been radical enough. The tendency of surveillance studies to make ‘imperial moves’ as it grows and inevitably institutionalises to a certain extent (however open access and open source and friendly we try to keep it), is something about which I should be more concerned. In some ways, I have been one of the surveillance studies academics most keen to expand what surveillance studies is and not to limit it to being a subset of sociology. Indeed I criticised Sean Hier and Josh Greenberg’s Surveillance Studies Reader on these grounds in the relaunch issue of Surveillance & Society earlier this year, however I think I was probably somewhat unfair to do so, and what seemed obvious to me about the field may not actually be as unarguable as I had proposed. Of course not everything is surveillance as seems to be the unfortunate starting point of some of the less good stuff in the field, but surveillance studies may not even, as David Lyon has claimed, be able to add something to everything and further, for the sake of academic social relations, maybe it should not…

Surveillance and Resistance

A great new issue of Surveillance & Society is out now on surveillance and resistance, guest edited by Laura Huey and Luis A. Fernandez.

Featuring great new articles…

  • David Bell – Surveillance is Sexy
  • Aaron K. Martin, Rosamunde E. van Brakel and Daniel J. Bernhard – Understanding resistance to digital surveillance: Towards a multi-disciplinary, multi-actor framework
  • Lucas D. Introna and Amy Gibbons Networks and Resistance: Investigating online advocacy networks as a modality for resisting state surveillance
  • Helen Wells and David Wills Individualism and Identity Resistance to Speed Cameras in the UK
  • Andrés Sanchez – Facebook Feeding Frenzy: Resistance-through-Distance and Resistance-through-Persistence in the Societied Network

With a special Review section on the UK House of Lords Constitution Committee Report, Surveillance, Citizens and the State, with responses by Oscar H. Gandy Jr. , N. Katherine Hayles, Katja Franko Aas and Mark Andrejevic

Opinion from Gary T Marx , and a poem from Rez Noir

…and lots of book reviews!