The Fourth Eye

Networks and Resistance: Investigating Online advocacy networks as a modality for resisting state surveillance

Introna, L. D. G. A. (2009). “Networks and Resistance: Investigating online advocacy networks as a modality for resisting state surevillance.” Surveillance & Society 6(3): 233-258.

An effective enactment of information politics will be an essential construitive element of a meta-surveillance network


  • “Sousveillance – the view that we can invert the all seeing eye of the panopticon – may allow for the actions of the watchers to be exposed and may subsequently engender a certain level of accountability on the part of the state”
  • An emergent online network – may have the propensity to exert pressure on the asymmetrical power imbued by the states, through strategies such as information politics, amongst others, and as such act as one possible mechanism for resisting state surveillance practices – possible constituting what one might call a network of meta-surveillance.” (i.e. for watching the watchers). P. 234
  • “It is however not clear (or may not be possible) for individual citizens to resist state surveillance practices.
  • “Drawing on these principles of networks, and the hyperlink structure of the web, we would argue that the individual actors that are concerned with state surveillance (such as privacy activists, advocates, researchers etc.) can potentially, through their linking practices, constitute a network that has, as one of its network externalities, the possibility of being a cohesive network of information politics and meta surveillance.”
  • “…we want to suggest why some have argued that such a meta-surveillance network may be seen as increasingly necessary.” P 236
  • A collective awareness of surveillance practices, linking incidents, corroborating information, linking data sets. P. 236
  • “The asymmetric power relationship that the state has over its citizens is problematic for those who want to enact resistance…one important element of resistance – one which will enable real choices in the democratic process – lies in the ability of different actors to make visible the variety of state surveillance practices and the connections between such practices.” P. 237
  • Some institutional mechanisms, information and surveillance commissioners, bodies to create some symmetry between the state and citizens. Often seen as too close to government to be an effective means of resistance.
  • Colin Benet in his 2008 book ‘makes the case for an active and vibrant network of privacy advocates. He argues that although there is a network this network is “dynamic, volatile, overlapping, fragmented and somewhere elusive.” He further suggests that there is “certainly no clear structure…neither is there a social movement with an identifiable base…perhaps [there is] an ‘advocacy network’ which can be conceptualized not as a fixed structure, but as a series of concentric circles.” . 238
  • “It is our proposition that an effective enactment of information politics by the network will be an essential construitive element of a meta-surveillance network, which in turn is an important element of resisting state surveillance practices.
  • Identify Privacy International, EPIC, EFF, EDRI (Digital Civil Rights in Europe), FIPR.
  • “Given the prominence of the traditional media (especially for the off-line audience_ it seems important that the advocacy groups find a way to cultivate co-linking relationships with the traditional media in order to draw them into the network” p 243
  • WikiLeaks identified by this study as being on the periphery!!
  • Study finds
    • a relatively stable network of core actors, but some important actors remain on the periphery of the network, detracting from the potential for the network to become an effective system for information politics and metasurveillance
    • The density of the network is relatively low, low level of reciprocal linking between all the actors
    • Seems the network is not yet able to effectively link to the traditional or new media as intermediaries
    • The network seems somewhat fragmented with a relatively small and geographically biased core. “This seems to concur with Bennett’s (2008) claim that the advocacy network is, “dynamic, volatile, overlapping, fragmented and somewhat elusive” without a clear structure, nor an identifiable base. P 248
  • “If successful it might ultimately become a network of meta-surveillance that has the potential to transcend the individual actors agency into a system of collective awareness of state-surveillance practices. Such collective awareness can most certainly become a powerful form of resistance. On the other hand it might be argued that it is important to the survival of the network that it remains ‘dynamic, volatile, overlapping, fragmented and somewhat elusive; a network of loosely connected centres that might be more resilient and able to resist attempts to counteract its activities. “ p 248


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