Haggerty_Ericson_-_Surveillant_Assemblage - Kevin D...

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Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson The surveillant assemblage ABSTRACT George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ and Michel Foucault’s ‘panopticon’ have domi- nated discussion of contemporary developments in surveillance. While such metaphors draw our attention to important attributes of surveillance, they also miss some recent dynamics in its operation. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is used to analyse the convergence of once discrete surveillance systems. The resultant ‘surveillant assemblage’ operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings, and separating them into a series of discrete  ows. These  ows are then reassembled in different locations as discrete and virtual ‘data doubles’. The surveillant assemblage transforms the purposes of surveil- lance and the hierarchies of surveillance, as well as the institution of privacy. KEYWORDS: Surveillance; assemblage; Deleuze; panopticon; social theory INTRODUCTION One of the most recognizable Žgures in cultural theory is the  âneur as analysed by Walter Benjamin (1983). A creature of nineteenth-century Paris, the âneur absorbs himself in strolling through the metropolis where he is engaged in a form of urban detective work. Concealed in the invisibility of the crowd, he follows his fancies to investigate the streets and arcades, carving out meaning from the urban landscape. Possessing a ‘sov- ereignty based in anonymity and observation’ (Tester 1994: 5), the âneur characterizes the urban environment and the experience of modernity. There has been an exponential multiplication of visibility on our city streets. Where the  âneur was involved in an individualistic scrutiny of the city’s signiŽcations, the population itself is now increasingly transformed into signiŽers for a multitude of organized surveillance systems. Benjamin British Journal of Sociology Vol. No. 51 Issue No. 4 (December 2000) pp. 605–622 © 2000 London School of Economics and Political Science ISSN 0007 1315 print/1468-4446 online DOI: 10.1080/00071310020015280
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recognized the importance of even the earliest prototypes of such tech- nologies, observing how the development of photography helped under- mine the anonymity which was central to the âneur by giving each face a single name and hence a single meaning (Benjamin 1983: 48). Surveillance has become a salient topic for theoretical re ection, and this interest coincides with the quantitative increase in surveillance in western societies. However, this paper does not propose to provide a com- prehensive overview of these systems of observation. A number of other authors have documented developments in this rapidly changing area (Staples 1997; Bogard 1996; Dandecker 1990; Lyon 1994; Gandy 1993). Instead, we view surveillance as one of the main institutional components
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Haggerty_Ericson_-_Surveillant_Assemblage - Kevin D...

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