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Sticky security: the collages of tracking device advertising

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2019

Anna Leander*
Graduate Institute, International Relations, Geneva and Instituto de Relações Internacionais, PUC Rio de Janeiro
*Corresponding author. Email:


In security studies and beyond, technological developments are associated with technocratic, rationalistic, transparent forms of security governed from a distance. In much of the advertising of tracking devices the associations made are very different not to say opposed to this. The advertising composes security anchored in sensemaking and resonance rather than calculus and reason, working from within and below rather than from a above at distance and depending on the negotiation of opaque co-presences rather than the establishment of precision and transparency. The consequence is that advertising not only extends but also deepens the grip of military/security matters: making them sticky. Moreover, the heterogeneity of the elements is such that what is composed is a shifting collage rather than a stable composition. This argument makes a threefold contribution to security studies: a theoretical reconceptualisation of what it means to compose security, an empirical intervention in the debates surrounding the politics of tracking devices and a methodological intervention in favour of collaborationist research strategies.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2019 

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74 This kind of recasting is central in advertising. Perhaps this is not surprising. As argued by Thumala et al., inserting tracking devices into routines is core to their success as commodities. See Thumala et al., ‘Tracking-devices’.

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82 There are obvious racial and gendered implications of locating the issues here. The advertising discussed above is both gendered and racial in explicit and unambiguous terms (viz the Duty of Care presentation or the Chenega advertising) but also in far more subtle ways that I have not discussed here.

83 Thumala et al. write that ‘tracking is being de-securitized in the ways that Zoe, our developer, predicted’. (‘Tracking-devices’, p. 19).

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