The Fourth Eye

Is Resistance Futile?

Fernandez, L. H., Laura (2009). “Is Resistance Futile? Thoughts on Resisting Surveillance.” Surveillance & Society 6(3): 198-202.

Framing resistance challenges assumptions that opposition to surveillance is nearly always framed through a traditional civil liberties lens.

 

  • Three trends
    • Notion of surveillance as a threat firmly entrenched in public imagination. Public experiences surveillance in their daily lives, but also consumes it as entertainment
    • Social discourse on surveillance is shallow and uncritical but merging different kinds of surveillance as if they formed a universal project, reinforcing a Big Brother stereotype
    • Resistance to surveillance is mostly about personal protection measures that makes individuals feel better, hiding the collective possibility for resistance.
  • Very little theoretical and/or empirical work has explored the issues of resistance in a sustained way, the individual and group resistance, the formation of anti-surveillance groups and or actor networks.
  • Big Brother and Panopticon metaphors usage has not been unproblematic [Lyon, Haggerty, Marks], totalizing systems
  • “Yet this all-encompassing notion of surveillance neither accurately reflects, nor indeed allows for sufficient scope for, the myriad of possibilities of resistance that some scholars have observed. [Monahan, Huey, Walby and Doyle, Starr and Fernandez] p. 199
  • “Surveillance, then, is relational, involving a power dynamic likely to unfold in uncomplicated ways.”
  • Gary Marx, “surveillance needs to be viewed as a dynamic process involving emergent interaction and developments over time.”…We add, however, that this dynamic should be examined in the context of the power relations unfolding in a given phenomena.
  • “analysis of surveillance should be predicated on the origins and actors involved.,, if follows that studying surveillance (and resistance) is going to be situational, contextual and historically specific.” p. 200
  • “a dialectic relationship between those who observe and collect data, and those who are observed and from whom information is extracted.” P200
  • a good starting point for studying resistance to surveillance is not the surveillance mechanisms, but the resistance itself.
  • “we suggest that if surveillance and resistance are best understood as dynamic, then we must examine instances of resistance first, since they are likely going to be not only a response to surveillance practices, but also present the new starting ground for the next set of surveillance mechanisms. This, we think, inverts the current analysis of the relationships.”
  • Framing resistance challenges assumptions that opposition to surveillance is nearly always framed through a traditional civil liberties lens.
  • “The importance of such networks they suggest, is the capacity to form a “system of collective awareness of state-surveillance practices” with the potential to “become a powerful form of resistance.”

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