Surveillance and Identity


Following Foucault and others, we can think of surveillance as a discursive technique which produces knowledge and identities. Surveillance infrastructures infiltrate and mediate everyday life. For example, internet “cookies,” shopping loyalty cards, and mobile phone numbers all individuate and identify us. These identifiers are used to index databases recording our web surfing activities, our movements, and our purchases.

The databases are subjected to statistical analysis in order to produce knowledge of demographic categories, typical patterns, or suspect behavior. This knowledge is then applied back to individuals in the population in order to assign each to a particular niche market or risk group, and to act toward them accordingly. Thus, through surveillance, knowledge is created, categories and types are produced, and individuals are made visible as representatives of those types. This course (INF2124H — Surveillance and Identity) investigates the technical, social, and legal contexts and implications of these practices.

Note: Formerly FIS2305H; no change in content.