If in the physical environment the pressing issue of the next several de-
cades (and beyond) is likely to be the dramatic transformation of the
global climate, in the social realm (to the extent that it can be distin-
guished from the physical environment), the main issue will be the shift-
ing surveillance climate. I don’t think this is overstating the case: in the
areas of politics, economics, commerce, policing, finance, warfare, and
beyond, social practices are being transformed by dramatic develop-
ments in information collection, storage, and processing, as well as by
various techniques of watching, broadly construed. The occasional anec-
dote about the power of new forms of data monitoring and mining—the
retail outlet that learned a young woman was pregnant before she told
her family, the ability of mobile phone use to predict whether someone is
coming down with the flu, the use of license- plate readers to reconstruct
people’s whereabouts—are only tiny foretastes of the automated, multi-
dimensional forms of surveillance to come.
We are at a moment in time when we can start to see the surveillant
imaginary expand vertiginously, thanks in part to the new avenues for
monitoring opened up by technologies that “interact” with us in a grow-
ing variety of ways and involve a wide range of senses and sensors, and
Previous Page Next Page