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Changing Culture, Changing Public: Redesigning the Rhetorical Public

Abstract

The idea of the Public and its influence on communication and civic activity has concerned rhetoricians since the Sophists sought methods to persuade the city-state. In fact, many ancient concepts of the Public are strong antecedents to modern ideas on social constructionism, agency in online communities, and exigencies for user-audience motivation. The current concept of the rhetorical Public is changing, however, due to new influences from digital culture. This article posits that modern rhetors must identify not only beliefs and values: they must create spaces where the Public’s expectations are met, where they may play the roles they desire to play, and where they are afforded the means to play those roles. Many of these pressures stem from changes wrought by a growing digital sphere. Thus, this article examines how the digital sphere is reshaping today’s concept of the Public. It reports on the impacts of changing digital-cultural spaces, the advent of online microcosms where fragmented Publics develop knowledge cultures (Jenkins 2008, 27), and, it ultimately culminates in the redefinition of the rhetorical Public for teaching today’s digital rhetoricians.

Introduction

The idea of a Public and its influence on communication and civic activity has concerned rhetoricians since the Sophists sought to teach methods to persuade the city-state (polis). For the sophists, the Public’s common beliefs (doxa) and customary behaviors (nomoi) were the sources for content an orator must use to move the mob (Mendelson 2002, 4). According to Susan Jarratt (1991), the sophists were the first rhetoricians to concern themselves with what the Public considered to be valuable in social and civic spheres. In fact, many of their Public considerations are strong antecedents for modern ideas on social constructionism, community agency, and exigency as being located in social and civic situations. Ancient philosophers too sought to understand the Public by seeking to discover how best to convey truth to the masses. Most notably, Aristotle in Rhetoric envisions the usefulness of conceptualizing the Public to better address the intellectual needs of society through rhetoric. Thus, the work of defining the rhetorical Public began and this work continues to be of interest in communication.

From these classical beginnings in antiquity, the rhetorician’s domain has always been the “‘probable’” in “social and civic places … where reasoned judgments and policies are desirable” (Porrovecchio and Condit 2016, 195). In these arenas, the rhetor’s command of cultural understanding and the affinities of the Public become the most potent fodder for persuasion. The rhetor must identify the beliefs and values of the Public audience and they must create a space where the Public’s expectations are met, where they may play the roles they desire, and where they are afforded means to play those roles. And yet, though these insights remain true, the concept of a Public and how it must be considered for rhetorical engagement is changing. Hence, the purpose of this article is to address how the rhetorical Public is being redefined by attributes of digital spaces and online communications which blur the boundaries between private and public domains.

To begin, though modern rhetoricians still use beliefs and behaviors to inform persuasion as the sophists who preceded them, the Public they address now is much more involved and connected. Today, the Public participates in the creation of what is persuasive directly via instant communication platforms with speakers, user-centered design research for products, and real-time data collection occurring on their devices and in their homes that informs and shapes their day-to-day experiences. This level of Public engagement and interactivity is extending the Public sphere. Thus, Public integration into mainstream digital culture is reshaping the rhetorical concept of Public and, in order for the rhetorician to address said Public, it must be usably redefined.

The traditional definition of a Public, according to John Dewey (1927), is a group comprised of individuals that form an audience facing a similar problem, who recognize its existence, and then resolve to address it. While Dewey’s Public definition attended situations of its era and the time’s political spheres, it lacks today’s extended social spheres and the Public’s development of what Jenkins (2008) identifies as fragmented “knowledge cultures.” A knowledge culture is an organic assemblage of individuals into a group around a particular topic of interest. For example, members of the CBS show Survivor’s subreddit form a knowledge culture, a knowledgeable fragment of a larger reality show invested Public. These digital assemblages form around niche topics connected to the Public en masse who may be interested in superordinate categories, while also belonging to numerous, similar smaller groups.

Further, Dewey’s Public predates the idea that its members are co-participants in devising, shaping, and defining dominant parts of cultural and civic rhetorical exchange (i.e. communications, products, interface experiences, etc.). Since this Public reorientation has occurred, the Public has become a central focus in social communication contexts and a driving force for user-experience research. For example, companies like Facebook and Google conduct large scale Public data aggregation and analysis to make small, incremental changes to their media and algorithms to give users what they want and improve their experiences. Thus, today’s Publics provide a mainstream exigency for communication design work, evidenced by increasing user research interests in all realms of communication.

So, with the development of a 21st century participatory culture enabled by networked communication technology, the Public has evolved from targets of rhetoric into co-creators of social and civic discourse whose contributions matter and who feel responsible for being part of the public sphere (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, and Robison 2009, 6–7). As a direct result of the Public joining with the rhetor in the act of creating communication, designing user-experiences for heightened participation and engagement is a key focus of rhetorical research and praxis. Thereby, to support this key focus, the concept of “Public” is being changed in our culture to the degree that their experiences with communication steer its content and they have become integral to the core activity of creating rhetorical discourse.

Hereafter in this article, I begin by briefly illuminating the significance of the Public concept to rhetoric. Then, I go into the historical treatment of the term Public by offering Dewey’s definition. After which, I advance to Grunig’s situational theory of Publics that came out of the 1980’s. These two treatments of Public seem to dominate the philosophy of Publics in current social, academic, and civic areas. Moving from these historical concepts of Public, I discuss how the changing public sphere in response to the digital, knowledge cultures, participatory ideology, and end-user design interests are pressing the dominant Public concept to change away from those of Dewey and Grunig. Following from these pressures, I offer a newly redesigned concept of Public for rhetoricians and instruction. Last, I close with the implications of the new Public concept, the limitations of this scholarly endeavor, and a gesture toward research interests on Publics for the future.

The Power of Publics in Rhetoric

Throughout the history of rhetoric in social, academic and political spheres, the concept of the Public has played a significant role in rhetorical studies and practices. From Aristotle to Dewey (1927), Ede & Lunsford (1984) to Johnson (2004), and from Grunig & Hunt (1984) to Habermas (1991), rhetoric in all areas has relied upon a distinct interest in analyzing the Public in order to communicate persuasively. This above all is the chief concern framing the rhetorical act. The rhetor, to be successful, must be able to understand the needs, desires, and motivations of the Public audience to influence their attitudes and behavior (Locker and Kienzler 2015). For the ancients like Isocrates, so potent was the attention of the rhetorician to the Public that their craft (techné) was the only sure tool for motivating the masses to action for the good of the populace. To many communication scholars, this rhetorical attention to the Public remains the utmost concern.

Today, the importance of the Public to rhetoric in cultural and civic settings renders its consideration pivotal to the practice of our art in the social sphere. Communication and Public theory scholar Rosa Eberly (1999) states that “those who hold rhetoric as a productive as well as an analytical art need to keep searching for ways to reconceive of public discourse” (175). To do so, we must consider how we address, teach, and understand Publics and their importance to communication. Thus, redressing the term Public, in general, and adjusting its definition is an important consideration for maintaining effective rhetorical communication. So, to improve understanding of our Public concept, and to discover how best we might revise it, we must first address Dewey’s foundational definition, then Grunig’s past situational theory of Publics to understand their historical roles in cultural communication.

Defining the Historical Public Concept and Theory of Publics

To begin understanding the concept of a Public—to get at how it is conceived both pragmatically and theoretically—we must begin with Dewey (1927) and his definition of the term. Dewey, in The Public and Its Problems, comprehended the notion of a Public as being more than a population of individuals associated by common interest. Rather, he defined the Public as individuals arising and organizing in response to an issue. According to an interpretation by Eberly (1999), Dewey saw what he understood to be a Public as given and taking shape through communication. That is, only by acting rhetorically regarding an issue could a Public become self-identifying and definable. This rallying around an issue frames both Dewey’s and Grunig’s (1984) concept of a Public as formative, active, and reactive in terms of shared communication and associated action in the public space. So, it is from Dewey’s conceptual schema that James Grunig develops and posits a situational theory of Publics.

In Grunig’s (1984) situational theory of past Publics, he focused on the behavior of individuals and the actions that they take in groups to form what he recognizes as Publics. These Publics partake in communication (consuming and producing rhetoric), operate in the context of a situation, and do so in response to an issue or problem. Together, these communications, contexts, and issues form a Public’s stimuli. But, not all individuals in the social sphere (or Publics for that matter) have, recognize, or react in the same manner to any given stimulus. This insight prompted Grunig, in collaboration with Todd Hunt, to define four different types of Publics—nonpublics, latent Publics, aware Publics, and active Publics (Grunig and Hunt 1984, 22). For our purposes, nonpublics, or those not confronted by an issue, lie outside of the discourse setting, what we might think of as the rhetorical situation. Thus, from here forward, the theory’s discussion addresses only latent, aware, and active Publics and how they participate in defining the concept of a Public for our redesigning of the term.

Beginning with the formulation of latent, aware, and active Publics, they all come into existence in relation to a rhetorical situation. The three types of Publics are thus engrained in a setting where rhetoric “respond[s] to particular needs, of [the] particular publics, at [a] particular time” (Eberly 1999, 167). Hence, rhetoric acts upon these Publics in particular ways. For example, rhetoric on an issue may enable latent publics to become aware of a problem, aware publics may become active respondents to the problem, all while the rhetoric may be providing active publics material in the form of possible ideas and potential solutions so they may continue addressing an issue. Thus, latent, aware, and active publics act through and react to their rhetorical situation and respond to their perceived societal needs in that situation.

So, if we apply our knowledge about the concept of Publics—derived from Dewey’s definition and Gurnig and Hunt’s theory—to a situation within the realm of civic discourse, the civic rhetoric shaped and employed by an active Public connects the idea of communication by the public with the goals of the public (what Isocrates termed the Public good). Pragmatically speaking, the concept of a Public is defined by shared communication, identification, and resulting action, while theoretically, it exists situationally in relation to an issue or problem and is shaped by its activity, presumably aimed at service to or support for said Public. With this historical concept in mind, my discussion and analysis will now examine how four modern pressures may be redefining this concept of a rhetorical “Public,” and how these pressures create new rhetorical directions (and stimuli) for our consideration.

Four New Pressures Reshaping Publics

Moving from the analog era of Dewey and Grunig, today’s technologically mediated society opens-up individuals to experiencing a multitude of new communications, environments, and issues every day. Further, multiple forms of online networking allow for the new stimuli to convey and perpetuate beliefs and behaviors in a continuous stream. These techno-cultural changes are forcing the rhetorician’s Public concept, grounded in the definition and theory of Dewey and Grunig, to grow and adapt. The first pressure is that the public sphere where individuals have long participated in the exchange of opinions is extending into realms and communications once private. This is happening through new means of communication and data collection in the home and other once private environs that are now part of the digital public sphere. The second pressure is the formation of large, online knowledgeable communities who are exercising collective intuition and insight to produce more active Publics through increased reach, command of data, and access to information verses historically analog Publics. Also, developing in-kind with the wide dispersal of network communication technologies, the third pressure extends from participatory ideology that is influencing the populace by activating Publics to a degree that the traditional passivity of non-, latent, or aware Publics is being intrinsically counteracted. And, the last pressure comes from the centralization of Publics to the act of designing rhetorical communications via user-centered design and user-experience based interests. As a result, modern Publics and their expectations for discourse are more pronounced than ever before as they have come to see themselves as central to the rhetorical act. Hereafter, looking closely at these four pressures on the concept of a Public may provide us both an understanding of where each has come from and where they may be taking us as we move toward the future.

A Changing Public Sphere Changes the Public

Starting with the outgrowth of the public sphere brought into being by digital environments, we must consider how this change put pressure on the concept of a Public. The most contemporary concept of the public sphere comes to us from social philosopher Jürgen Habermas’ (1991) Structural Transformation in the Public Sphere. Drawing on language describing a public space occupied by individuals participating in discussions of informed, societal opinion in eighteenth century Germany, Habermas begins to articulate his social theory of the public sphere. To do so, he combines the observed German concept of social, rhetorical actions with Greek antecedents—“notions concerning what is ‘public’ … what is not” and the activities of discussion (lexis) and common action (praxis) in matters of the polis (3). To Habermas, the public sphere was a space where private citizens, literate in issues of civil society, come together to form a discursive Public separate from their private lives. This Public entered willingly into culturally open forums, wielded limited information ready-to-hand, and was motivated, often personally, by an issue or problem. However, this public sphere, distinctly owing to its analog origins, does not account for the changes of the digitizing Public and the deterioration of privacy. As communication and cultural experiences went online, Publics entered a digital space where they encountered information access that was far-reaching and beyond their singular knowledge; they came face to face with issues and problems of others which were readily thrust upon them; and, they were confronted with a space where their information was easily captured and made public.

According to law and privacy scholar Daniel Solove (2016) in “The Nothing-to-Hide Argument,” as individuals move online with their information, the divide between what is public and what is private blurs. What was once private information—our habits, interests, and ideas often explored from the comfort of our couch on a networked device—is data mined and collected as publicly discoverable, commercially purchasable information (Solove 2016, 737–40). This intrusion and publication challenges the traditional definition of the public sphere because an individual’s “own realm (idia),” the privacy of one’s own home (oikos), is compromised; the private becomes manifest in a public sphere even if the Public is ignorant about said sphere (Habermas 1991, 3). Additionally, the capturing of personal communications for public dispersal via technologically mediated conversations (those held outside of “the public life, bios politikos”) has eroded the private conversation to the point that all communication thusly mediated is potentially a public artifact (Habermas 1991, 3).

Therefore, these illustrations illuminate the extension of the public sphere into homes and into private conversations mediated by technology through the intrusion of the digital public sphere. As a result, the concept of the Public is reshaped by the cultural “nothing to hide” rhetoric in the public sphere itself. This transforms the fabric of what is Public in our concept. Also, as individuals forsake privacy for networking with the Public, more personal beliefs and attitudes enter into the sphere and weakens the Public as it becomes sometimes “less-literate” and more intimate and, at times, irrational. Hence, the changing public sphere altered by attributes of the digital sphere is fundamentally changing the Public to whom rhetoricians speak and must be accounted in our redesigning of the concept.

Forming Knowledge Cultures Influences the Public

Another digital change influencing the rhetorician’s Public concept is the formation of knowledge cultures in our techno-centric society. Knowledge cultures are communities where participants “share their knowledge and opinions” (Jenkins 2008, 26). These communities arise through audiences who organize themselves organically around specific interests or issues. Thus, by this definition and our understanding of how Publics form, it seems online knowledge cultures and Publics manifest in similar fashion, if not as one and the same. According to cultural theorist and media scholar Pierre Lévy, the knowledge culture serves as an “’invisible and intangible engine’” for what Jenkins calls the “mutual production and reciprocal exchange of knowledge” (quoted in Jenkins 2008, 27). Hence, it seems logical to assert that knowledge cultures may often be the foundation for a modern digital Public that is communing on a cultural or civic interest within an online, networked space.

However, if we compare the past analog Publics of Dewey and Grunig and Hunt’s to the digital ones of Jenkins and Lévy’s knowledge cultures, the difference is that the latter communities always have at their disposal the plethora of data online and the power of “collective intelligence” afforded by cyberspace (Jenkins 2008, 27). Collective intelligence stems from the idea that no single person can possibly know everything there is to know, but, collectively, individuals know things and have skills they can contribute to a shared pool of resources. This implies that every single person has valuable expertise to contribute and that by working together, the collective within a digital Public empowers the individual and vice versa. Additionally, Lévy argues that collective intelligence enables participants to become active collaborators in a knowledge community, which “allows them to exert a greater aggregative power in their negotiations” (quoted in Jenkins 2008, 27) because the knowledge community determines what is and is not knowledge.

Empowerment over knowledge in a knowledge culture may create situations where the digital Public grants itself power over what is good or effective communication with the digital Public sphere even if its membership lacks rhetorical expertise. Therefore, it seems knowledge cultures common to digital communities provide not only access to information, but access to shared intelligence and the power that the collective affords. Additionally, this increased power, alongside the valuing of all members may result in not only collective power over persuasive appeals (both cultural and civic), but also individual power as they feel emboldened by the strength of the collective intelligence of their community. For this reason, the new knowledge culture concept must be attended to by rhetoricians who address Publics. These new collective, knowledgeable, and active communities indicate that Publics are becoming more empowered, banding together, and participating in reshaping their own spaces, while also elevating their own status to that of an invaluable knowledge culture.

Participatory Ideology Shapes the Public

The next pressure on the concept of a Public as hinted at in my knowledge culture analysis is the new social push for participation in communication. This new participatory ideology is due to the empowered status of the Public and its membership in the current digital, networked Public sphere. This ideology has activated Publics far beyond the traditional means of those found in Dewey’s non-networked, analog settings of the past by connecting today’s member of a Public with encouraging and supportive (inter)actions. Just as rhetoricians must consider the influences of active knowledge cultures for strong social and civic discourse, we must attend to the participatory ideology these cultures represent and their effects on modern Publics.

According to Jenkins et al. (2009), today’s hyper-active Public is engaged with the creation and sharing of cultural knowledge through media. This position of power in relation to communicating knowledge makes participants feel central and indispensable to public rhetorical acts. Also, Jenkins (2008) indicates that a participatory Public conflates “media producers and consumers” into a single role, participants (3). As participants, all individuals have agency and interact with one another according to the new cultural perception that everyone in an audience is always-already involved in meaning-making by degrees. This view of participants connects to the idea that a Public in civic discourse may be perceived as an “involved audience” (Johnson 2004, 93). According to Robert Johnson (2004), “the involved audience is an actual participant in the writing process who creates knowledge and determines much of the content of the discourse” (93). Thus, an inclusive, generative view of today’s Public arises from participatory ideology and modern audience theorizing. Just as in knowledge cultures where individuals are central to creating and communicating, participatory ideology posits that everyone has valuable expertise and are expected to be actively collaborating in Public discourse as participants. Therefore, as rhetoricians, our understanding of the Public concept must admit the reshaping induced by current participatory ideology and redesign the term accordingly.

User-based Design Expectations Inform the Public

Our final pressure reshaping the rhetorician’s Public concept is wrought by our own growing interest in user-based design for communication purposes from user-experience research (Hoekman Jr. 2016). By focusing our efforts on designing documents for end-users, we are priming audiences to expect communications to conform to their desires. As such, the employment of design practices in many modes of digital public discourse may have already begun to alter expectations toward more personalized experiences. For example, Steve Krug (2014), an expert web designer and advocate for user-experience design, posits that the fundamental conventions of webpages and how they communicate is rooted in not only being intuitive, but also in recreating positive experiences that are desirable for individual users. Thus, rhetoricians must be attuned to the effects of user expectations when communicating with modern Publics in the digital age. Reorienting communication in this manner requires that today’s rhetor consider how user-based document design effects the Public and its concept of effective communication in light of expectations generated within the digital public sphere.

To begin the reorientation, the rhetorician may start from the concept of document design. Document design refers to how communicators assemble documents to create an agreeable, useful experience for the audience. According to Karen Schriver (1997), communication scholars need to persuade an audience by discovering and attending to a “reader’s needs” by appealing to their “goals and values” through design elements (11). While this represents an approach to communication familiar to rhetoricians addressing rhetorical situations, the modern audience in the public sphere may come to expect civic communications to mirror their expectations, perhaps even to put their own opinions first and foremost (i.e. consider the social media echo chamber). In other words, the Public may see itself as the most important part of the rhetorical situation and devalue the message and/or purpose of the communication because of their perceived “elevated status” as a focal point of design. In this situation, if the digital Public sees a communication as ignoring its authority, power, or import, it may, according to Dentzel (2013), disregard or even attack a communication for its apparent inattention to the Public’s interests. It is the elevated status of the Public developed by user-based design practices and changing digital communication environments that rhetoricians must be most aware of as they take-part in developing social and civic discourse.

Furthermore, the modern networked audience expects their experience with a communication to be informed by a vested interest in what they want and what they believe is best for the Public to which they belong. Thus, in the user-based approach to communication design, the Public expects rhetoric to seek to not only meet their individual expectations, but also to be democratized to promote inclusion and well-being of the Public (Dentzel 2013). All the while, as alluded to previously, users of modern communications expect interaction and for it to be easy. They expect to contribute and they expect to be a valuable part of a communication once they participate (Jenkins et al. 2009, 6–7). It seems we as rhetors today have a difficult challenge before us. Thus, user-experience design expectations are redesigning our rhetorical discourse and reforming the concept of the Public itself. As contemporary rhetoricians, we must reshape our concept of a Public to include how its expectations are informed by the practice of user-based design and networking as well as the other pressures previously discussed.

Reconceptualizing the Rhetorician’s Public

Based on the initial definition and theory of a Public and the preceding examination moving from the concept’s past to present day pressures, a newly redesigned concept of the term emerges. Extending beyond the traditional definition, rhetors must attend to several new aspects of Publics as they prepare discourse for the public sphere. First, they must attend to Publics as being both personally, as well as publicly, invested in the rhetorical situation. As the public sphere has enveloped more aspects of the private sphere due to the digital, Publics have formed more intimate connections between the discourse and their identity. Second, our concept must acknowledge digital Publics as potentially less objective, but more prone to wielding personal expertise and powerful collective intelligence drawn from online communities and from vast stores of networked cultural information that are immediately available to them. Last, rhetors must employ a Public concept wherein Publics see themselves as central, generative contributors to democratized communications. That is, our concept of the Public needs to acknowledge the desire of individuals not only to be included, but also valued by a clear and vested interest in their contributions, concerns, and experiences. These aspects of the rhetor’s redesigned concept of a rhetorical Public must be considered to affect social and civic audiences successfully in the contemporary cultural environment surrounding discourse in the digital age.

Closing Remarks on Reshaping the Rhetorical Public

Though it is impossible to have the definitive and final word on a concept so rich and varied as the rhetorical Public, observations concerning its definition and theory in this scholarship are noteworthy. They begin to direct our research and suggest future redesign work for this and other terminology central to the shared disciplines in the fields of English, Communication, Technology, and Design. First, though the Public is still defined by shared communication and action as Dewey articulated, those traits have taken on new depth as members infuse their daily lives with a more personal relationship to Publics and more shared opinions are taken up to inform the digital public sphere. From this realization, I caution that our Public, in theory, may feel differences of opinion as attacks on themselves or their identity.

A second observation is that while Grunig and Hunt’s situational theory of Publics is accurate in its assessment of Publics as existing situationally, their theory could not have predicted the inward articulation of today’s Publics. That is, our more self-interested and self-centric Publics may see themselves as the most important part of a situation, and therefore they may see themselves as the locus for its creation. This may result in forsaking messages and purposes in the discourse that do not focus on “me.” Again, in light of this finding, I warn that a new Public may seek out echo chambers that reflect their ideas back to them out of overemphasized self-importance. Additionally, this new conceptual Public may be easily alienated by social or civic discourse that fails to replicate the collective knowledge of the fragmented groups to which they belong. But, in any event, how rhetoricians need to respond to this reconceptualization of the Public is beyond the scope of this scholarship which is geared toward redesigning the concept of a Public and pointing toward some of the needs we must consider prior to teaching it.

So, in closing, for the concept of a Public and how this scholarship has endeavored to encourage its exploration and consideration, there is much more work to do. This is especially true regarding how we teach rhetoric to respond to the Public as it changes. Though this article has begun to consider some of the changes of social spheres—the influences of knowledge cultures, the reshaping of participatory ideology, and the informing of user-based design—there remain clear lines to be drawn showing how exactly these considerations align and derive from how we teach the dominant definitions and theories of Publics posited by Dewey, Habermas, Grunig and Hunt, and others. To undertake that exploration, I leave it to the next rhetor who picks up where the sophists left-off, ponders Dewey, study’s Grunig, Hunt, Habermas, Jenkins, and others empirically to discover where our definition and theory of Publics is heading next and how we need to conceive it for continued successful social and civic discourse.

Bibliography

Dewey, John. 1927. The Public and its Problems. Chicago: Swallow Press.

Dentzel, Zaryn. 2013. “How the Internet has Changed Everyday Life.” Ch@nge: 19 Key Essays on How the Internet is Changing Our Lives. Madrid: BBVA.

Eberly, Rosa. 1999. “From Writers, Audiences, and Communities to Publics: Writing Classrooms as Protopublic Spaces.” Rhetoric Review 18, no. 1: 165–78.

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. 1984. “Audience Addressed / Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy.” College Composition and Communication 35, no. 2: 155–171.

Grunig, James, and Todd Hunt. 1984. Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1991. Structural Transformation in the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Hoekman, Jr., Robert. 2016. Experience Required: How to Become a UX Leader Regardless of Your Role. New Riders.

Jarratt, Susan. 1991. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Jenkins, Henry. 2008. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

———, Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton, and Alice Robison. 2009. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Johnson, Robert. 2004. “Audience Involved: Toward a Participatory Model of Writing.” In Central Works in Technical Communication, edited by Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart Selber, 91–103. New York: Oxford University Press.

Krug, Steve. 2014. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobil Usability,3rd ed. Pearson, newriders.com.

Locker, Kitty, and Donna Kienzler. 2015. Business and Administrative Communication, 11th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education.

Lunsford, Andrea, Kirt Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly. 2009. The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Mendelson, Michael. 2002. Many Sides: A Protagorean Approach to the Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy of Argument. Chicago: Springer.

Porrovecchio, Mark, and Celeste Michelle Condit. 2016. “Part IV: Perspectives on Publics.” In Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, edited by Mark Porrovecchio and Celeste Condit, 195–97. New York: Guilford Press.

Schriver, Karen. 1997. Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Solove, Daniel. 2016. “The Nothing-to-Hide Argument.” In Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, reprinted in Everything’s an Argument with Readings, edited by Lunsford, Andrea, John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

About the Author

Philip B. Gallagher is a professional and technical communication scholar specializing in Communication Design Theory and Pedagogy, New Media Learning, and Applied Communications. He is finishing his PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at Iowa State University (2020) and has an MA in English with an emphasis in Composition, Rhetoric, and Professional Writing (2012) from Eastern Illinois University. His current research includes: rhetorical design theory and process in business and technical communication; knowledge management in virtual communities; the development of New Media instruction, embodied cognition, and phenomenological writing studies; and the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion in Higher Education.


This photograph shows several students from behind, collaborating on the DHSI privacy plan by writing on a chalkboard.
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Finding Fault with Foucault: Teaching Surveillance in the Digital Humanities

Abstract

This article outlines the risks posed by Foucauldian logics and provides alternative pedagogical strategies grounded in a culture of care. Failing to address surveillance culture through this critical framework exacerbates its effects by encouraging its continuation and intensification. Modern surveillance tools make it challenging, if not impossible, to pinpoint the characteristic(s) against which the tool has been programmed to discriminate. The treatment of such automated surveillance decisions as impossible to question has enabled the further entrenchment of inequality and injustice. As such, scholars, activists, and the public need to band together to fight against unethical surveillance practices; one effective way is by providing our students with the tools needed to critique the surveillance machine and to envision more equitable futures. Teaching them to question Foucault, and thereby the premises of Western surveillance, is vital to this process.

“Where are the digital humanists critiquing the growing surveillance state?” 
       —Michael Widner, 2013

Citing events such as Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing and the passing of the PATRIOT Act in the US Congress, Widner argues that digital humanists are doing little to nothing to intervene in the ever-increasing infringements on privacy in the Western world. His argument, however, is framed around a specific type of DH—male-dominated, highly computational scholarship that emulates the data mining projects of organizations such as the NSA. For critical digital humanists, surveillance is a site where issues surrounding race, gender, and sexuality intersect with our digital lives. Works such as Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018), Miriam Posner’s “See No Evil” (2018), and  Jacqueline Wernimont’s Numbered Lives: Life and Death in Quantum Media (2018) reveal a growing concern with surveillance, with groups such as SurvDH and the Digital Library Federation’s Technologies of Surveillance working group providing outlets for digital humanists to explore these topics in more depth. Similarly, rhetoric and composition scholars are developing new work on the effects of surveillance in the university by examining how digital composition tools, data-sharing platforms, social media networks, and learning management tools place our students’ data at risk. Although these fields have distinct approaches, they articulate the ethical concerns raised by surveillance culture’s pervasive invasion into our classrooms and our lives.

Since 2016, I have taught four courses focused on surveillance and data ethics. Two were geared towards undergrads—one in a women’s and gender studies department at a large public university and one in an American studies department at an elite, small private college. The other two iterations were taught at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, BC, a program that provides graduate students, faculty members, librarians, and technologists a chance to learn about a key theory or methodology within the digital humanities. While the course has seen slight variations over time, its overarching goal has always been to interrogate the ethical issues of state, corporate, and social surveillance mechanisms. To that end, I included texts written largely by women and BIPOC to demonstrate the ways in which surveillance culture exacerbates ongoing discrimination against marginalized groups. Some of these texts include Simone Browne’s Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (2015), Kim Tallbear’s Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (2013), and Shoshana Amielle Magnet’s When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race and the Technology of Identity (2011).

While my goal has always been to advocate for decolonial and anti-colonial approaches to surveillance, the first iteration of the course began with a discussion of Foucault’s panopticism. At the time, I argued that Foucault provides a foundation for understanding the structures of Western surveillance, which, once understood, can be applied to the U.S. imperial enterprise and can shape our analysis of events such as the Standing Rock protests or the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Although I sought to demonstrate the inequities of the surveillance machine, structuring the course in this way elided many of the flaws within Foucault’s argument. Perhaps most damaging is Foucault’s (1995) assertion that surveillance, by virtue of being everywhere, affects everyone similarly. He states, “Bentham dreamt of transforming into a network of mechanisms that would be everywhere and always alert, running through society without interruption in space or in time. The panoptic arrangement provides the formula for this generalization” (Foucault 1995, 209). In other words, the panopticon is designed to penetrate all communities, spaces, and cultures; causing many to ask, “If the panopticon is everywhere, then aren’t we all the equal victims of its repressive machinations?”

Students are incredibly responsive to this argument. They love to expound upon how their homes, schools, sports teams, and extra-curricular activities are all part of the system that Foucault describes, and who can blame them? It helps to clarify the basic tenets of Foucault’s argument, and it gets them excited about surveillance and privacy issues. Yet, it is only now after many years that I realize the extreme disservice this has done to my students. By allowing them to conflate varied surveillance mechanisms and contexts, I failed to implement a culture of care in the classroom. At that moment, I did not explicitly affirm the central premise of the course—surveillance is a tool of state and corporate oppression that has disproportionate consequences for women and people of color. This had one of two possible consequences: it either overstated the severity of their experiences or downplayed real (and unspoken) traumas. Conversations on surveillance tend to be problematic because much of the canon encourages readers to believe in two false premises—that all surveillance is equal and that surveillance is inescapable. These premises are not only dangerous for readers of Foucault, but also for our culture at large. As the foundational theory surrounding Western surveillance culture, Foucault’s views have pervaded our daily lives, making us docile when we experience monitoring from our co-workers, classmates, employers, retailers, and devices and reinforcing colonialist hierarchies of power and marginalization.

 This image depicts a chalkboard with the question, “What is surveillance?” written in the top left. Below this are a variety of answers written in multiple people’s handwriting.
Figure 1. Classroom explorations of surveillance.

To push back against these misconceptions, it is crucial that we present students with different perspectives on surveillance, privacy, and power. As Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (2012) note in their groundbreaking work, “Decolonization is not a Metaphor,” language is a powerful tool by which to address inequalities pervasive within surveillance culture and inherent to the colonial enterprise. They note:

One trend we have noticed, with growing apprehension, is the ease with which the language of decolonization has been superficially adopted into education and other social sciences, supplanting prior ways of talking about social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches which decenter settler perspectives. Decolonization, which we assert is a distinct project from other civil and human rights–based social justice projects, is far too often subsumed into the directives of these projects, with no regard for how decolonization wants something different than those forms of justice. (2)

By adopting the language of decolonialism into our social justice initiatives, settler scholars (myself included) are allowed to ignore the long histories of settler colonialism that have shaped our perceptions of justice, allyship, and activism both inside and outside the academy. Our reliance upon teaching surveillance theory through Foucauldian principles similarly is flawed, as his discussion of surveillance negates the settler enterprise by eliding it entirely.

One of the ways Foucauldian logic contributes to this elision is through its choice of analogies. Instead of structuring his core discussion of surveillance around strategies of conquest and colonialism, Foucault references a seventeenth-century document that outlines procedures for towns affected by the plague. According to these rules, citizens are coerced to acquiesce to surveillance upon pain of death. By describing surveillance through this metaphor, Foucault (1995) explicitly misrepresents the harm wrought by state surveillance and ultimately enables its continuation. His discussion of panopticism begins as follows:

First, a strict spatial partitioning: the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; if he leaves the street, he will be condemned to death. On the appointed day, everyone is ordered to stay indoors: it is forbidden to leave on pain of death. (195)

Without context, his narrative is one of conquest—citizens are cut off from neighboring communities, their resources are destroyed or placed under foreign control, and individuals are forced to acquiesce to this system upon pain of death. These characteristics are not relegated to one particular colonial experience, but are inherent to processes of conquest. Moreover, Foucault would have been familiar with the processes of colonialism. In The History of Sexuality, he asserts that the rise of repression occurred in the seventeenth century, but his argument focuses on the cultural repression of sexuality. He fails to mention that the seventeenth century also marks the peak of the African slave trade, the expansion of Spanish missions, and the founding of Jamestown. Each of these events is a key component of settler culture’s colonial enterprise.

Indigenous peoples across the globe were subjected to the surveillance systems embedded within the conquest apparatus. In the United States, the conquest of indigenous peoples occurred in many forms—through the development of reservations, the allotment of land, and the use of residential schools. Similarly, indigenous resources were killed off to ensure that each nation’s way of life was no longer sustainable. One of the most common misconceptions is that all indigenous peoples were treated similarly during these processes, but this is patently untrue. Some indigenous nations, such as the Miami and Delaware, lost their federal status, meaning that their economies, customs, cultures, and homelands were stripped from them entirely. The Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota’s economies were toppled by the killing of the buffalo in the Great Plains; however, many other communities faced similar economic devastation. The Osage, who maintained mineral rights over their federally appointed lands in Oklahoma, garnered great wealth during the oil boom; however, they were only allowed to access these profits through their government-appointed guardians, each of whom was white. As such, few Osage received the money owed to them for use of their land; instead, the federal government developed a system that systematically stripped them of their economic well-being. Although many indigenous nations filed lawsuits against the United States government, noting the particularly cruel and discriminatory nature of many federal laws pertaining to indigenous peoples, the vast majority of these systems are still in place. Those who have rebelled against this mistreatment via force have been sentenced to death. Similar processes were implemented in the United States colonies, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Marshall Islands and Hawai’i. In each case, the islands were cut off from neighboring communities and forced to acquiesce to U.S. rule upon pain of death. Military bases were established across the islands, and indigenous ways of life were subsumed by industries beneficial to the colonial enterprise, particularly sugar and coffee. In some cases, such as in Puerto Rico, multiple waves of colonial rule sought to eradicate indigenous communities and identities.

So, why is it important to discuss indigenous peoples in the context of the panopticon? Indigenous peoples have been subjected to the harshest forms of surveillance, yet they appear nowhere in Foucault’s analysis or in the work of his intellectual descendents. Andrea Smith (2015) notes that “the manner in which Foucaldian analyses of the state tend to temporally situate biopower during the era of the modern state disappears the biopolitics of settler colonialism and transantlantic slavery” (23).[1] In other words, many scholars of surveillance, either implicitly or explicitly, erase the ways in which the formation of the state was dependent upon the subjugation of indigenous and black bodies.

To counteract these texts, scholars such as Simone Browne, Virginia Eubanks, Shoshana Amielle Magnet, and Safiya Noble theorize about the relationship between surveillance and colonialism by demonstrating the ways in which marginalized peoples often experience the greatest consequences of surveillance culture. Browne (2015) notes that “When particular surveillance technologies, in their development and design, leave out some subjects and communities for optimum usage, this leaves open the possibility of reproducing existing inequalities (162–3). At other times, communities are more explicitly targeted by surveillance culture for speaking out against the colonial machine. Andrew Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan (2018) note that “Indigenous activists are policed using the powers and resources of the national security apparatus, demonstrating the extensive reach of the ‘war on terror’ into the traditional domain of colonial governance.” Groups such as #BlackLivesMatter and the protesters at Standing Rock have faced similar scrutiny, with critics using the rhetoric of terrorism to incite their critiques of what bell hooks terms “imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy” (1984, xv). To address this marginalization, Browne (2015) offers up the framework of “dark sousveillance” which “speaks not only to observing those in authority (the slave patroller or the plantation overseer, for instance) but also to the use of a keen and experiential insight of plantations surveillance in order to resist it” (22). She then extends this framework to contemporary physical and digital environments that continue to discriminate against black bodies. Looking at historical sites of surveillance and resistance can help us develop strategies for countering discrimination in the modern world.

This image lists the biographical information students located about Joyce Semmler displayed on a dry erase board.
Figure 2. Learning about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) movement by remembering the life and death of Joyce Semmler.

Analysis, however, is not enough. We must imagine possibilities for pedagogy and activism that operate outside of surveillance culture. We can only do so if we interrogate the second false premise offered by Foucault’s model: the panopticon is inescapable. According to his analysis, citizens of the modern world always operate within the realm of surveillance, and individuals can only move from one controlled environment into another. This view normalizes surveillance culture in unhealthy and unethical ways; by claiming that surveillance is inescapable, we tacitly agree that corporations, predators, and the state do not need our consent or our approval to monitor us. According to Smith (2015), “reliance on state surveillance prevents us from seeing other possibilities for ending violence, such as through communal organization that might be able to address violence more effectively” (36). Although numerous alternatives to surveillance culture exist, most seem to rely on a sense of communal ties. Foucault himself posits the antithesis of the panopticon to be carnival—a celebration in which citizens are free from surveillance, monitoring, and order. While living in a permanent state of celebration may not be conducive to the functioning of society, adopting an explicit set of communal values does subvert surveillance culture by resisting individualization, isolation, resource allocation, and assimilation. Organizations dedicated to studying the ethics of surveillance, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, provide a series of best practices—consent, revocation, decentralization, and protection. By giving individuals the opportunity to control when and how they are surveilled, and by protecting the information they choose to provide, they suggest that we can develop a culture that values human health and well-being over power and profits. But how do we implement these strategies in our classrooms? Below, I outline a number of strategies I have used to counteract Foucauldian logics and to emphasize the injustice created by surveillance culture.

Start with something other than Foucault

Consider what voices you are centering and what effects this has on your pedagogy. All subsequent iterations of this course have begun with settler colonialism. By examining the surveillance mechanisms deployed against indigenous peoples—relocation, allotment, assimilation, and erasure to name a few—students begin to understand the varied contexts in which humans experience surveillance. Course readings include excerpts from Tommy Orange’s There There (2018), Sandy Grande’s introduction to Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought (2015), and Andrea Smith’s article “Not-Seeing: State Surveillance, Settler Colonialism, and Gender Violence” (2015).

In class, I demonstrate the undue surveillance experienced by indigenous peoples by talking through problematic laws such as the Dawes Act (1887), the Indian Citizenship Act (1924), and the Indian Relocation Act (1956). During the discussion, I tape off sections of the floor to depict the ways in which indigenous lands were systematically privatized, stolen, and/or devalued for the sake of settler profit. Seeing the classroom broken into pieces, with each one subject to unique rules and governance, helps students gain an understanding of settler surveillance and the ways it was used to destabilize, destroy, and decimate indigenous communities across the United States. This framework also provides opportunities for challenging Western knowledge systems. One way to do so is by highlighting organizations that resist surveillance by upholding indigenous values and data practices. The Sovereign Bodies Institute, an organization that “builds on Indigenous traditions of data gathering and knowledge transfer to create, disseminate, and put into action research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people,” is one such example. Their model challenges many forms of settler culture; in particular, they collect data on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and share it with organizations fighting against the mistreatment of indigenous women. Additionally, they refuse to share their data with settler enterprises—including police, academic researchers, and colonial governments. They even go so far as to refuse funding from settler agencies, ensuring that they retain sovereignty over all elements of their work. As such, the Sovereign Bodies Institute serves as a powerful model for engaging in anti-surveillance work that is communally-engaged, socially-conscious, and intentionally indigenous.

There are many other valuable pedagogical strategies to consider. Simone Browne’s work interrogates the trafficking of enslaved peoples, noting that many surveillance mechanisms were deployed to control the movements, bodies, wealth, and opportunities for black bodies. Her work, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (2015) pairs well with texts such as Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018) and Shoshana Amielle Magnet’s When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race and the Technology of Identity (2011). Each explores the ways in which surveillance technology disproportionately targets black bodies and provides useful strategies for subversion and resistance.

Skip Foucault entirely

I have taught four iterations of this course, two as undergraduate seminars and two as special topics courses at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), which is geared toward graduate students, librarians, faculty members, and technologists. In most of these cases, Foucault has been unnecessary for the function of the course. Undergraduates are well aware of the omniscience of the surveillance machine and are happy to engage with other theories or examples. Professionals in the field, on the other hand, have often read Foucault already and are interested in analyses that move beyond his arguments. In either case, Foucault is unnecessary and may even hinder students’ ability to engage in meaningful critiques of surveillance culture.

Conduct surveillance self-assessments

One strategy surveillance specialists use to assess their physical and digital vulnerabilities is threat modeling, a technique that helps to identify, analyze, and prioritize security risks. In Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (2015), Julia Angwin uses threat modeling to assess her own security practices. Using her work as a model, I ask students to think through how their positionality, employment, family, peer group, shopping habits, and social media all influence their participation in surveillance culture. This helps students untangle the numerous and overlapping modes of surveillance woven into their day-to-day experiences as well as to identify often overlooked components of their privacy practices.

Discuss more than digital surveillance

Scholars such as Safiya Noble and Cathy O’Neil note that the biases within digital systems are often obscured or invisible. One reason algorithms are so harmful is that they discriminate along many vectors simultaneously. Algorithms can weigh factors including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, income, education, and age within a single formula, making it difficult to determine the source of their biases. To help students understand the function of these networks more clearly, it can be beneficial to point out their operation in the physical world. Often, physical surveillance is designed around one or two vectors, which can be traced through data collection, observation, and/or analysis. Our world is rife with examples—the disproportionate policing of black and brown bodies, the undue violence experienced by protestors and dissidents, the illegal detainment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the harassment experienced by othered bodies at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints. Once students begin to understand these forms of surveillance, they can more easily apply this knowledge to our digital systems.

Implement an ethic of care

When teaching surveillance related topics, remember that your students may experience anxiety or trauma around certain topics. Do not ask students to expound upon invasions to their own privacy unless they offer them up freely. Talk to them about stress-management techniques and mental health resources in addition to privacy practices.

Similarly, be sure not to place others at risk for the sake of learning. In March 2019, the following privacy assignment went viral on Twitter:

This image depicts an assignment developed by Kate Klonick, an Assistant Professor at St. John's University Law School, which asks students to observe and identify members of the community using surveillance strategies.
Figure 3. Learning how surveillance pedagogies can place vulnerable communities at risk.
Numerous individuals expounded on the creativity of this assignment, and the professor was even featured in NPR.[2] What Klonick failed to consider; however, were the ways in which this assignment infringes upon the privacy of others and disproportionately polices bodies deemed to be divergent and/or diverse. Picture yourself walking into a coffee shop. Who do you expect to be there? What do they look like? Who would be out of place? What do they look like? In a culture dominated by Western thought, many are likely to be perceived as “out of place” in public spaces, including people of color, the itinerant, and the differently abled. Klonick’s assignment therefore invites increased scrutiny of people who are already policed in public spaces. Instead of serving as innovative pedagogy, this assignment reinforces the discriminatory practices baked into all aspects of surveillance culture. Countering harmful surveillance practices is harder than it sounds. Discriminatory practices are so ingrained in our behaviors that it takes careful and intentional planning to design assignments that are built upon an ethic of care. We must constantly assess and re-assess the risks our pedagogies pose to our students and update our methodologies as the affordances of surveillance mechanisms grow and change.

Imagine different possible futures

One of the greatest tools we have for resisting surveillance culture is speculative thinking. By imagining new possible futures we allow ourselves to think outside the restrictive structures of modern society, such as capitalism, colonialism, or consumerism. In fact, futurisms have long been a tool of critical race scholars working at the intersections of race and technology. Grace Dillion (2012), who coined the term “indigenous futurisms,” notes that this technique “can create estranged worlds of the future in which the writer can foreground … the intersection of indigenous nations with other sovereignties, race, technology, and power” (11). In the same way, futuristic thinking can provide our students with a means of escaping the oppressive elements of surveillance culture and imagining new strategies for resisting its machinations.

This photograph shows several students from behind, collaborating on the DHSI privacy plan by writing on a chalkboard.
Figure 4. Students developing the ideal privacy plan for DHSI. This process encouraged students to speculate about new possibilities for responding to surveillance culture.

We must give our students the tools to speculate about such futures. Teaching them to question Foucault, and thereby the premises of Western surveillance, is vital to this process. As Kari Kraus (2018) notes, speculative thinking requires that we segment existing structures into their component parts: “Without the ability to segment an everyday object into its constituent parts, each of which can be manipulated independently of the others, Morse could never have conceived of his invention, let alone built it. Fault lines yield the fragments that artists, inventors, designers, writers, and conservators use to make, unmake, and remake the world” (163). One of the ways we can start to break surveillance culture into fragments is by challenging the primacy of Foucault. We must fight against the false premises presented in Foucault’s argument or risk becoming complacent to the inequalities proliferated by surveillance culture. Failing to address the harms of surveillance in our communities only exacerbates their effects by encouraging their continuation and intensification. Modern surveillance tools make it challenging, if not impossible, to pinpoint the characteristic(s) against which the tool has been programmed to discriminate. Cathy O’Neil (2016) notes that “Like gods, these mathematical models were opaque, their workings invisible to all but the highest priests in their domain: mathematicians and computer scientists. Their verdicts, even when wrong or harmful, were beyond dispute or appeal. And they tended to punish the poor and the oppressed in our society, while making the rich richer” (8). As such, scholars, activists, and the public need to band together to fight against unethical surveillance practices; one effective way is by providing our students with the tools needed to critique the surveillance machine and to envision more equitable futures.

Notes

[1] To quote Sandy Grande in her book Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought, “I would feel remiss if I did not mention the controversy regarding Smith’s claim to indigenous identity. As someone who is neither a citizen of Cherokee nation, nor her relation, I don’t see it as my place to comment on her identity but I am compelled to speak to the impact of the controversy on the field of Native studies” (10). Smith’s scholarship, particularly on indigenous feminisms, has been widely cited by indigenous and non-indigenous scholars alike. The challenges faced by indigenous communities, and especially indigenous women, ring true regardless of Smith’s identity.
[2] The feature can be found here https://www.npr.org/2019/03/10/702028545/googling-strangers-one-professors-lesson-on-privacy-in-public-spaces.

Bibliography

Angwin, Julia. 2014. Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance. New York: St. Martin’s.

Browne, Simone. 2015. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Crosby, Andrew and Jeffrey Monaghan. 2018. Policing Indigenous Movements: Dissent and the Security State. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Books.

Dillion, Grace L. 2012. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Eubanks, Virginia. 2018. Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. London, St. Martin’s Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1990. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Reissue edition. New York: Vintage Books.

———. 1995. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.

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hooks, bell. 1984. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Boston: South End Press.

Kraus, Kari. 2018. “Finding Fault Lines: Approach to Speculative Design.” The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers. London and New York: Routledge, 162–73.

Magnet, Shoshana Amielle. 2011. When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity. Durham: Duke University Press.

“New ‘Technologies of Surveillance’ Group,” Digital Library Federation, accessed 15 May 2019, https://www.diglib.org/technologies-surveillance-dlf-group/.

Noble, Safiya. 2018. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: NYU Press.

O’Neil, Cathy. 2016. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. New York: Crown.

Smith, Andrea. 2015. “Not-Seeing: State Surveillance, Settler Colonialism, and Gender Violence.” In Feminist Surveillance Studies, edited by Rachel E. Dubrofsky and Shoshana Amielle Magnet. Durham: Duke University Press, 21–38.

Sovereign Bodies Institute, accessed 28 September 2019, https://www.sovereign-bodies.org/.

SurvDH, accessed 15 May 2019, cboyles.msu.domains/suvdh.

Tuck, Eve and K Wayne Yang. 2012. “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1: 1–40.

Widner, Michael. “The Digital Humanists’ (Lack of) Response to the Surveillance State,” accessed 28 September 2019, https://outline.com/TSMafb.

About the Author

Christina Boyles is an Assistant Professor of Culturally Engaged Digital Humanities at Michigan State University. Her research explores the relationship between disaster, social justice, and the environment. She is the director of the María Memory Bank, a project that works with community organizations in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to collect and preserve stories about Hurricane María. Her published work appears in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Bodies of Information: Feminist Debates in the Digital Humanities, American Quarterly, Studies in American Indian Literatures, The Southern Literary Journal, The South Central Review, and Plath Profiles.

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