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Chapter 5. Bitcoin emerged in 2009 from a community of libertarian cryptographers who sought an alternative payment system free from fiat inflation and from government payment surveillance and censorship. Today it provides an alternative payment rail that circumvents central banks. Bitcoin serves as a medium of exchange in some transactions, but not yet as a commonly accepted medium of exchange. The Bitcoin source code keeps the number of Bitcoin in circulation growing, at an ever-slowing rate, along a programmed quantity path. Basic monetary theory shows that this supply mechanism has pros and cons: It avoids money supply shocks, but it rules out any supply response to variations in demand, making the purchasing power of Bitcoin more volatile than that of gold or (relatively well-managed) fiat, which limits the attractiveness of holding Bitcoin as a medium of exchange. The costs of the Bitcoin industry are borne by its users, not by third parties, to the same extent as those of any energy-using private industry. The non-zero chance of its serving as a future global money means that Bitcoin has a fundamental value. It does not inherently rest on an unsustainable chain-letter or “bigger fool” process.
The forms of punishment and informal privatization in schools have wide-ranging implications for student subjectivities and practices. This chapter focuses in particular on the resulting patterns of noncompliance, failed disciplinary supervision and gendered contestation. It provides background on the wide-ranging negative consequences of harsh punishment for young people. It focuses in particular on noncompliance and its assumed links to working class education, to gender traditionalism and to assumptions about authoritarian Arab schools. It charts patterns of contestation and retaliation among girls and boys and the responses of school authorities to them, and explains the attempts of educational authorities to uphold a semblance of discipline and educational supervision. In contrast to depictions of authoritarian Arab schooling and its role in producing obedient submissive citizens, the chapter describes the collapse of this model of schooling and the kind of authoritarianism it implies in the case of Egypt. In the place of obedience or submissiveness, it highlights pervasive forms of noncompliance and illusory forms of control over schools in the context of state withdrawal and de facto privatization.
Despite its common usage, the meaning of ‘democratic’ in democratic intelligence oversight has rarely been spelled out. In this article, we situate questions regarding intelligence oversight within broader debates about the meanings and practices of democracy. We argue that the literature on intelligence oversight has tended to implicitly or explicitly follow liberal and technocratic ideas of democracy, which have limited the understanding of oversight both in academia and in practice. Thus, oversight is mostly understood as an expert, institutional and partially exclusive arrangement that is supposed to strike a balance between individual freedom and collective security, with the goal of establishing the legitimacy of and trust in intelligence work in a national setting. ‘Healthy’ or ‘efficient’ democratic oversight then becomes a matter of technical expertise, non-partisanship, and the ability to guard secrets. By analysing three moments of struggle around what counts as intelligence oversight across Germany, the UK, and the US, this article elucidates their democratic stakes. Through a practice-based approach, we argue that oversight takes much more agonistic, contentious, transnational, and public forms. However, these democratic practices reconfiguring oversight remain contested or contained by dominant views on what constitutes legitimate and effective intelligence oversight.
The power of the digital platforms and the increasing scope of their control over individuals and institutions have begun to generate societal concern. However, the ways in which digital platforms exercise power and organize immaturity—defined as the erosion of the individual’s capacity for public use of reason—have not yet been theorized sufficiently. Drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capitals, and habitus, we take a sociosymbolic perspective on platforms’ power dynamics, characterizing the digital habitus and identifying specific forms of platform power and counterpower accumulation. We make two main contributions. First, we expand the concept of organized immaturity by adopting a sociological perspective, from which we develop a novel sociosymbolic view of platforms’ power dynamics. Our framework explains fundamental aspects of immaturity, such as self-infliction and emergence. Second, we contribute to the platform literature by developing a three-phase model of platform power dynamics over time.
Crises such as Hurricane Maria and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have revealed that untimely reporting of the death toll results in inadequate interventions, impacts communication, and fuels distrust on response agencies. Delays in establishing mortality are due to the contested definition of deaths attributable to a disaster and lack of rapid collection of vital statistics data from inadequate health system infrastructure. Readily available death counts, combined with geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic data, can serve as a baseline to build a continuous mortality surveillance system. In an emergency setting, real-time Total, All-cause, Excess Mortality (TEM) can be a critical tool, granting authorities timely information ensuring a targeted response and reduce disaster impact. TEM measurement can identify spikes in mortality, including geographic disparities and disproportionate deaths in vulnerable populations. This study recommends that measuring total, all-cause, excess mortality as a first line of response should become the global standard for measuring disaster impact.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has received global attention since 2017 due to China’s massive crackdown on Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region. Since 2017–2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s crackdown on Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang has become unprecedented in its scope and intensity. Reports on the CCP’s highly repressive strategies in that region led to a formal expression of concern by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 20181 and several legislative hearings in the United States.2 In 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on three officials, including Chen Quanguo, who are in charge of the Xinjiang’s recent development and a major economic and paramilitary organization, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (known as bingtuan), accusing it of “facilitating widespread abuses against Uighur Muslims.”3
Black resistance movements are among the most surveilled social movements in American history. From slave insurrections to Jim Crow and Black Lives Matter mobilizations, the government and its accomplices have long worked to monitor and control these movements. This chapter explores the history of Black surveillance and control, elaborating on the impact new technologies and shifting demographics have had on Black resistance movements and their strategies to counter this surveillance and control.
As David Hillman and Ulrika Maud note, ‘the body has always been a contested site’.1 This chapter applies Sara Ahmed’s position that the racialisation of bodies occurs through a differentiation between bodies on the grounds of Otherness, and argues that the period between 1780 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 witnessed a distinctive chapter in the racialisation of British women.2 Racialisation is, as Ahmed asserts, a process that takes place in time and space, and which has ‘multiple histories’.3 Surveillance likewise can be understood as a process as much as an act, and is ‘historically present not just in technology or statecraft, but also in society and culture’.4 During this ‘long’ nineteenth century between 1780 and 1914, the long-standing idea that women were biologically distinct from men became, for the first time, legitimised by science and the Victorian state, and women’s physical bodies themselves became platforms for surveillance. In a period which has been recognised by many as a turning point for overt information collection, women became almost literal information objects.5
The goals of independent India of achieving the constitutional promise of an egalitarian society have largely been led by an emphatic endorsement of the right to equality on one hand, and the implementation of positive discrimination measures, such as caste-based reservations in public employment and education, on the other. The idea of redistributive justice was a common theme often visited in the Constituent Assembly Debates.1 India shares a long history of social and economic oppression with most other countries in the developing world. While the markers for such oppression are often race and socio-economic status, or both, in most parts of the world, in India, caste and tribal identity remain the most important vectors for discriminatory practices and structural inequities.2
We are living in times of deep turmoil and rapid change. Over the past few decades, inequality has increased within and between countries.1 Simultaneously, new developments in digital technology have spread throughout the world, reconfiguring power relations and the rhythms of everyday life. Transnational technology corporations and powerful nation states have been the primary beneficiaries of the digital revolution, and their domination of digital technology concentrates power and wealth into their hands. The United States dominates the global tech economy, an evolution of American empire.2 Computers, wired together across the Internet, have drastically expanded the capacity to spy on and assess individuals, groups, and populations.
In 1953, a man holding the position of “Indian Councillor” at Sarnia Indian Reserve #45 stood up. Government officials had been sent to his reserve to speak to the “Indians” and explain to them how being given the right to vote in elections, and the ability to purchase alcohol legally under Canadian law, would “help” his band properly develop into good “civilized” Canadian citizens. Having listened, he responded simply: “We were the first settlers on this continent. Then, the whites came and made us Indians.”1 This short statement eloquently summarizes two centuries of surveillance-focused law and social policy targeting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. It expresses two key components of Canadian/British Imperialism; first, the creation and enforcement of an imposed and unwanted racial category of “Indian,” and second, the construction and assertion of an expected “education,” and cultural development, tied to this racial identity.
South Africa’s long legacy of racism and colonial exploitation continues to echo throughout the post-apartheid era. For centuries, European conquerors marshaled surveillance as a means to control people of color. This began with the requirements for passes to track and control the movements, settlements, and labor of Africans. Over time, surveillance technologies evolved alongside complex shifts in power, culture, and the political economy.
‘Stop, who goes there?’ is a precursor in World War II movies to a character presenting his papers. His identity has to be established to verify that he is not out of place, that he is authorised to be in this particular area. Who he is – his rank, age, race, or ethnicity – is of little relevance; it is much more important that he has appropriate credentials, and is therefore authorised, to pass the control point. Presenting identity papers meets the guard’s demand in this pre-digital context. Twenty-first-century digital environments still require us to submit to identification as authorisation or verification; however, these new identifications are now deeply implicated in the broader issues of identity.
Roaming around in São Paulo can be quite a stimulating experience: The city’s bustling rhythm, its effervescent cultural life, and its ethnic heterogeneity leave little room for doubt as to why Brazil’s largest city is generally considered South America’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis. Meanwhile, the city’s “tough concrete poetry”1 also bespeaks a configuration in which human bodies are dwarfed and citizens are constantly reminded of their respective place – a proverbial “city of walls”2 in which the utopia of a universally accessible and politically empowering public space has long since been thwarted by a maze of privatized streets, fortified urban enclaves, and an omnipresent array of surveillance devices. Despite the local elites’ attempts to depict São Paulo as a place which is defined by both its tolerance and its diversity,3 the city’s very material configuration thus indicates an urbanistic model which segments and separates more than it joins and unites. Rather than the clichéd melting pot, São Paulo resembles a kaleidoscope in which social class and ethnic affiliation assign each citizen a precise spatial coordinate in a cityscape defined by a mesh of internal frontiers – some brutally physical, others more subtle and ethereal – and the corresponding characteristic of an almost suffocating impermeability.
Surveillance is a key public health function to enable early detection of infectious disease events and inform public health action. Data linkage may improve the depth of data for response to infectious disease events. This study aimed to describe the uses of linked data for infectious disease events. A systematic review was conducted using Pubmed, CINAHL and Web of Science. Studies were included if they used data linkage for an acute infectious disease event (e.g. outbreak of disease). We summarised the event, study aims and designs; data sets; linkage methods; outcomes reported; and benefits and limitations. Fifty-four studies were included. Uses of linkage for infectious disease events included assessment of severity of disease and risk factors; improved case finding and contact tracing; and vaccine uptake, safety and effectiveness. The ability to conduct larger scale population level studies was identified as a benefit, in particular for rarer exposures, risk factors or outcomes. Limitations included timeliness, data quality and inability to collect additional variables. This review demonstrated multiple uses of data linkage for infectious disease events. As infectious disease events occur without warning, there is a need to establish pre-approved protocols and the infrastructure for data-linkage to enhance information available during an event.
The rise in prison populations in the 1980s coupled with the silencing of the voices of those in prison compromised the visibility of some Black writers. Writers who were not incarcerated began to write about the prison experience, especially in terms of its effect on families. Although that trend can be seen earlier and later, the neoconservative 1980s catalyzed the need for a new approach to Black prison writing that would enable prisoners’ stories to be told by family members. At the vanguard of that movement is John Edgar Wideman whose willingness to tell the story of his incarcerated brother changed the trajectory of contemporary African American literature and its intersection with prison writing. This chapter utilizes the lens of Michel Foucault’s concept of the carceral archipelago in order to advance a broader literary/cultural critique. Foucault enables us to extend Wideman’s inquiry outward from prison into a series of institutions designed to preserve and promote the idea of racial hierarchy despite mythological national claims of opportunity, democracy, equality, and equal justice for all well after the abolition of slavery and the end of legal segregation.
“Surveillance capitalism” is a term coined by Shoshana Zuboff to draw attention to the fact that data collection has become so important for the functioning of the economy that the current stage of capitalism should be named for it. “Instrumentarian power” is a kind of power that deploys technology to obtain ever more knowledge about individuals to make their behavior predictable and thus monetizable. “Social physics” is a term used by computer scientist Alex Pentland to describe the potential of quantitative social science to put Big Data to beneficial use. The primary goal of this chapter is to discuss what it takes to secure the Enlightenment for digital lifeworlds. Since this chapter is the last in a row of chapters concerned with rights, we also discuss (and reject) the position that rights, especially human rights, are enough to articulate a promising normative vision for society. This discussion draws on insights from Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, which has synergies with Zuboff’s work. Contrary to a neoliberal understanding, a strong view of democracy, as discussed in Chapter 3, is also required for a promising normative vision for society. So is a plausible theory of distributive justice, as discussed in Chapter 9.
With the rise of far-reaching technological innovation, from artificial intelligence to Big Data, human life is increasingly unfolding in digital lifeworlds. While such developments have made unprecedented changes to the ways we live, our political practices have failed to evolve at pace with these profound changes. In this path-breaking work, Mathias Risse establishes a foundation for the philosophy of technology, allowing us to investigate how the digital century might alter our most basic political practices and ideas. Risse engages major concepts in political philosophy and extends them to account for problems that arise in digital lifeworlds including AI and democracy, synthetic media and surveillance capitalism and how AI might alter our thinking about the meaning of life. Proactive and profound, Political Theory of the Digital Age offers a systemic way of evaluating the effect of AI, allowing us to anticipate and understand how technological developments impact our political lives – before it's too late.
This chapter explores the cultural significance of the optical telegraph in Ireland. Following the institution of the Chappe télégraphe in revolutionary France, this long-distance communications technology was widely innovated and subsequently adopted by numerous governments including, briefly, the British administration at Dublin Castle. The chapter begins by discussing the promotion, in the Belfast Northern Star, of the telegraph designed by the ‘improving’ Ascendancy landlord, Richard Lovell Edgeworth. It then considers the politics of telegraphic discourse in Ireland in the years leading up to the Rebellion of 1798, with a particular focus on the associations between telegraphy and the United Irish press. Finally, it suggests some points of affinity between Maria Edgeworth’s tale ‘The White Pigeon’ (1800) and her father’s telegraph. In its connection with competing ideas of Irish nationality, security, and surveillance, I argue, the telegraph offers valuable insights into the relations between literature and technology in late eighteenth-century Ireland.
This chapter argues that Samuel Beckett’s plays function as a kind of fulcrum in a theatrical history of staging and thematising surveillance, extending from Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon (1859) through Augusta Gregory’s Spreading the News (1904), to Enda Walsh’s Arlington (2016) and David Lloyd’s The Press (2009) and The Pact (2021). Surveillance agencies rely heavily on technology to gather information, but depend on human beings to store, order, and interpret it, and dramatic narratives exploit inconsistencies and injustices arising from slippages between data and its application. Boucicault, Gregory, Walsh, and Lloyd are counterpointed to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Catastrophe, and What Where, which theatricalise the structuring influence of monitoring and scrutiny on the texture of Irish social experience, personal and public. Once classified in an archive or record, or interpreted in policy and implemented in practice, ‘intelligence’ plays out less as a function of rigorous analysis than ideological determination.