Publication: Big data ecologies

Landscapes of political action

Big Tech is increasingly ‘partnering with/enslaving’ nature in order to maintain and grow its operations while also demonstrating concern for the environment via large scale sustainable infrastructural developments. However, to green their cycles of production, Big Tech invests in infrastructure that not only sustains but also unwittingly serves to encourage consumption at a time of severe social and political unrest and environmental instability. In these material expansions, there is tremendous infrastructural, financial and political support for ongoing consumption and its embedded values: progress, innovation, and social transformation. In order to analyse this power dynamic, I argue that we must reconsider the scale, scope, and the various meanings and enactments of both indigenous and settler ecological thinking, and mediated ecologies, to better understand Big Tech in a rapidly changing environment. I propose the concept of ‘Big Data Ecologies’ to situate infrastructure at the centre of the discussion of neoliberalism within the rapid and global environmental transformations with which they are intertwined.

Hot off the press! PUBLIC 57: Archive/Counter-Archives!

A provocative exploration of archives and counter-archives.

ARCHIVE/COUNTER-ARCHIVES advances conversations regarding the changing nature and political realities of audio and visual heritage in the twenty-first century. Bringing together artists, archivists, and researchers, this issue of PUBLIC argues that the re-thinking of audio-visual heritage preservation is ultimately strategic and political, especially given the precarious material conditions of archives in the digital era, and the fact that colonial and racialized forms of structural control over the history of place and belonging continue to embargo access to the past for many communities. This issue thus turns towards the transformative potential of counter-archives, which can be political, ingenious, resistant, and community-based. These insurgent archives are embodied differently and have explicit intention to historicize differently, to disrupt conventional national narratives, and to write difference into public accounts. PUBLIC 57 also brings to the fore the work of women and Indigenous, racialized, diasporic, and LGBT2Q+ communities to create counter-archives that expand, interrogate, and disrupt conventional archives and archival methodologies. 

Draft: The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret (Shepherd and Hogan)

The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret

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Created to gather and analyze intelligence during the Cold War, the National Security Agency (NSA) is a key arm of the US surveillance state that relies on protective secrecy around its activities. Yet in June 2013, Edward Snowden famously leaked a trove of internal NSA documents showing the agency’s expansion into blanket surveillance practices since 9/11. The Snowden leaks precipitated a period of revelation concerning the NSA as what Michael Taussig has called a public secret. In this article, we consider how the public secret of the NSA is mediated through its visual styles, in particular through the promotional communications of the NSA’s public website, the internal communications of PowerPoint slides among the Snowden cache, and the material communications of the agency’s physical buildings. A semiotic approach to the way the NSA mixes romantic, futuristic, and bureaucratic styles shows how the binary ideology of the Cold War continues to permeate the NSA’s mediations of its public secret.

Keywords: surveillance, secrecy, NSA, Snowden, semiotics, ideology, bureaucracy

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Publication: Making and Doing

This volume brings together a range of papers that fruitfully engage with the theme of the 2017 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in San Diego, California: Interventions. Here “intervention” points to a range of communication practices that engage with a political event, social phenomena, industrial or socio-cultural practice, in order to alter and disrupt events and the norms and practices that contribute to their occurrence. Interventions prohibit events from proceeding in a “normal” course. Interventions approach or critique practices and phenomenon resulting from tensions or absences occurring in: events, structures, (institutional governmental, media industry), discourses, and socio-cultural and subcultural events. Intervention presents the opportunity to explore boundaries, assumptions and strategies that appear to be different or irreconcilable, viewing them instead as possibilities for productive engagements. Communication interventions-in both research and practice-insert insights from diverse voices, marginal positions, emerging organizational practices and digital technologies, to broaden and enrich dialogue. Interventions bring complex reframings to events and phenomenon. Interventions seek to alter a course and effect changed practices in a range of spheres: governmental and social institutions, cultural and nongovernmental groups; industry and organizational life, new media and digital spaces, socio-cultural environments, subcultural groups, health environments, affective and behavioral life, and in everyday life.