Call for 4S Papers: A New/Old Technology for Governance? Questioning Big Data Surveillance

Driven by deterministic assumptions that the mere presence of information leads to positive social transformation (Srinivasan, Finn, & Ames, 2017), the era of big data has arrived (boyd & Crawford, 2012), bringing with it a series of critical questions that ask what big data surveillance looks like. As the titles of popular books and articles on the topic of big data surveillance such as Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (O’Neil, 2016), “The Dystopia We Signed Up For” (Manning, 2017), and “How Big Data is Automating Inequality” (Eubanks, 2018) all underscore, the way in which big data is being imagined is as a new, nearly cataclysmic threat to public well-being. Such questions, however, may elide the ways in which big data surveillance is embedded within existing socio-political networks of power. As a technology of governance, big data surveillance constrains and enables the mobility of data/bodies asymmetrically. For example, surveillance, especially as an apparatus of state governance, has long been used for the social control of communities of color (Brown, 2015). Although big data surveillance may represent new, 21st century relations between private companies, universities, and the U.S. intelligence community (e.g. Amoore & Piotukh, 2015; O’Neil, 2016), it is still guided by a pre-existing and longstanding ideology of monitoring and controlling (Benjamin 2016). We invite papers that critically engage with big data surveillance practices, either by questioning the epistemological systems underpinning these practices or examining how these practices enable, constrain or distribute economic, political, and social mobilities.
Due: February 1, 2019
Contact Caelyn Randall, Communication Arts, or Xerxes Minocher, Journalism and Mass Communication, for more information.