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Conceptualising the Surveillant Body: On the Work of being watched

Conceptualising the Surveillant Body: On the Work of being watched
Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Gavin Smith # Australian National University
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Date and Time
9th Dec 2015 11:00 - 9th Dec 2015 13:00
CMB - 6th floor common room

Today’s bodies are akin to ‘walking sensor platforms’. Bodies either host, or are the subjects of, an array of sensing devices that act to convert bodily movements, actions and dynamics into circulative data.

This paper proposes the notions of ‘disembodied exhaust’ and ‘embodied exhaustion’ to conceptualise processes of bodily sensorisation and datafication. As the material body interfaces with networked sensor technologies and sensing infrastructures, it emits disembodied exhaust: gaseous flows of personal information that establish a representational data-proxy. It is this networked actant that progressively structures how embodied subjects experience their daily lives. The significance of this symbiont medium in determining the outcome of interplays between networked individuals and audiences necessitates that it is carefully contrived: that technologies of the self are exploited in the care of this virtual entity.

The paper starts to explore sociologically the nature and function of the data-proxy, and its impact on social relations. Drawing on examples that depict individuals engaging with their data-proxies, I suggest that managing a virtual presence is analogous to a work relation, demanding diligence and investment. But I also show how the data-proxy operates as a mode of affect that challenges conventional distinctions made between organic and inorganic bodies, agency and actancy, mortality and immortality, presence and absence.

Seminar Series