The Rise of the Surveilling Class

Inherent to the dialectic of Marxism, the greatest threat to the stability of the bourgeois is the spark of revolution capable of uniting and empowering the proletariat mass. Therefore, it would seem counterintuitive to think of social media technologies (SMT) as a repressive force used against the proletariat in the battle between the two classes. SMT’s not only achieve social cohesion, but provide economies of distribution capable of disseminating counter ideologies. However, it has been under the deceptive veil of social empowerment and connectivity that the latest iteration of surveillance technologies have been able cover the master-narrative of “security”. Testament to the success of this veiling has been the complicit self-exploitation of the proletariat class who would otherwise have revolted against the engulfment of private personal space by the public sphere. Once in the domain of the public sphere all actions, transactions and thoughts are susceptible to critical examination upon which additional repressive measures can be formulated. But how has this been achieved?

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An Interesting Spatial Method for Website Creation/Presentation

Hi everyone,

I recently came across the website of a graphic design artist named Kalle Hagman.  She designed her portfolio website using the google maps platform.  It’s a really interesting idea and a fantastic appropriation of a predominantly spatial presentation method.

When you open the website you’re confronted with a close up of her business card; as you use the map’s zoom function to widen your view you are gradually exposed to her most recent artistic endeavors.  I just thought it was a really unique way to present a portfolio of work and may prove useful for those project teams that are working toward presenting their material for class discussion.


Check it out!


Surveilling (Potential) Terrorist Children


A news article entitled “Police identify 200 children as potential terrorists” illuminates a new state of surveillance in the UK. Police are monitoring children in Muslim communities who have been identified as being “at risk of extremism.” Teachers, parents, and other community leaders are asked to monitor children and adolescents and identify those who have extreme views or are susceptible to the influence of radical Islamic groups. Children identified as being ‘at risk’ are offered guidance in the form of a tailored intervention program.

I can’t decide what I think of this program. Is this program of careful monitoring and intervention a natural extension of the usual surveillance role of parents and teachers?

Is it a necessary precaution or an extreme policing tactic?



Benedikt reading

I have to admit defeat. I’ve gotten perhaps twenty pages into the Benedikt article, “Cyberspace: Some Proposals,” and I’m utterly lost. I’m going to share some of my notes from this essay to let you know exactly where and when (and how) he lost me:

“Using decidedly low-altitude mathmatics, we will look at these [the rules and principles of cyberspace] in relation to the rules and principles of natural, physical space, and under five, essentially topological rubrics: dimensionality, continuity, curvature, density, and limits” (132).

I have to admit, he’s really starting to lose me here. He starts talking about the seven principles of physical space and cyberspace, and from what I can gather, he proposes to examine how the rules and principles of cyberspace are based on the rules and principles of physical space. I think.

“Now, any N-dimensional state of behaviour of a system can be represented in what I would like henceforth to call a data space of point-objects having n spatiotemporally locating, or extrinsic dimensions, and m intrinstic dimensions, so called because they are coded into the intrinsic character of the point-object. In sum: N=n+m” (135).

Yup. I’m lost.

Okay. Let’s see if I can make heads or tails of this.

An intrinsic quality of an object or system is something that is inherent in the object and not affected by its position in space or time, such as its weight, size, colour, etc. An extrinsic quality is what pinpoints that object or system in time and space, such as… it’s age, perhaps? Its geographic location, such as “on the desk” or “next to a tree”? Its GPS coordinates? Age. Time. Place. Okay.

And in order to understand and fully measure an object/system, we must take into consideration all the qualities, both intrinsic and extrinsic.

I think.

“Any two objects in the same data space can be said to be identical if they have the same values on the same, matching intrinsic dimensions; similar, if they have different values on the same, matching intrinsic dimensions; and different if they do not have the same same intrinsic dimensions” (136).

So… two objects are identical if they’re identical, similar if they’re similar, and different if they’re different. Okay. I can handle that.

I’m guessing that because he’s dealing with intrinsic dimensions, that extrinsic dimentions don’t affect the similarity or difference of an object. A laptop, for example, if it is identical intrinsically (i.e. in size, shape, colour, function, appearance, etc.), it can be said to be identical even if its extrinsic dimensions don’t match exactly (its age and its location). In fact, it would be literally impossible for two objects to share exact extrinsic dimensions, as then they would have to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time. Physically impossible.

I think I’m getting this. This is the Principle of Exclusion.

“The Principle of Maximal Exlcusion (PME) advises the following: Given any N-dimensional state of a phenomenon, and all the values—actual and possible—on those N dimesnions, choose as extrinsic dimensions—as “space and time”—that set of (two, three, or four) dimensions that will minimize the number of violations of the Principle of Exclusion” (139).

I’m lost again. I’ll try to make sense of this.


Nope. Still don’t get it.

So I understand the Principle of Exclusion, but his explanation of the Principle of Maximal Exclusion utterly escapes me.

Does anyone understand it? Can you enlighten me if you do? I’ve been banging my head against this for too long.

— Sarah

Video Games: Imaginary Space?

I’m really glad Laura brought up Riven and Myst today,  because it reminded me that I meant to make a post regarding video games and the exploration of space.  As you may have guessed from my comments, I follow video games fairly closely, and the game that’s currently receiving my attention is Fall-Out 3.

All the Fall-Out series follow the same basic plot: the world has suffered through a nuclear holocaust, and you play as one of the people who survived the fallout by residing for generations in a sealed vault.  Only, (as is the case in each game) something’s gone wrong, and you’re forced out into the ruined world.  (In the latest installment, you’ve gone in search of your father, so we’ve also got the whole Oedipus factor, although if you want to stick more strictly to your Greek epics, it’s really more a Telemachus/Odysseus thing.)

The press for the game goes to great lengths to emphasize its “sand-box” nature, that you don’t follow a strict narrative, but can go anywhere, and do anything.  The actual game is somewhat different.  As Coyne notes, there’s a series of objects that completely prevent your progress: locked doors, walls, etc.  But what’s more interesting to me are the parts that don’t block your progress, but do their best to shape it.     Enemy type and environmental surroundings work together to direct the gamer towards certain areas.    In the open, rural areas of the game, your most common enemies are giant rats and wild dogs, both fairly easy to combat.  But if you try to progress into the city areas, you are attacked by super mutants lobbing grenades and cocking machine guns–while at the same time, the open space gives way to tight alleys and cramped corridors–as we discussed in class regarding horror games, the sudden restrictions go a long way to increasing the over-all tension.  (it’s a point that connects tangentially to Stone’s discussion of phone sex–a narrowing of control and options can actually convey more information.)

The game also does other interesting things with spaces.  Since it’s a game that makes a big deal out of the ability to go everywhere, it needs to do some work in motivating the player to go anywhere.  Part of how it does this is through the automapping and zoom features.  The map of the game is generated through exploration–you know where you are and how you relate to other things by going to them and experiencing them.  Likewise, you can quickly warp to your destination–but only if you’ve been there before.  I think this form, and video games in general, encourage a very fragmented view of space: there’s no whole, just a series of connected levels that you travel among.  (Also in the discussion of virtual spaces, it’s worth noting that updatable maps, maps that track changes in your position, existed in video games long before they did in the real world.  Is virtual space more “mappable” than real space?)

But that’s all stuff that’s more or less common to a lot of video games nowadays.  The reasonably unique element of Fallout-3 is its location: the entire game is takes place in the ruins of Washington, D.C.  And it makes the most of its setting.  I don’t know if I’d go quite as far to say that it’s a detournement to place these familiar landmarks in this new world, but I think it’s moving in that direction.  Here, for example, is a comparison shot of the Washington Monument and the reflecting pools:

fallout-31It’s a particularly good example, because, in the game, the Monument has been entirely repurposed: in one of the game’s missions, your player can bring broadcasting equipment to the top of the Monument, to transform it into the amplifying station for the only remaining free broadcast radio station.  In other words, the Monument has been repurposed as a symbol of the freedom of information (which isn’t a huge stretch from its original purpose, but hey, the only minor detournement is the exact opposite, right?).  It’s one of the more clear examples, but as you wander around DC and observe the mercenary/Super Mutant gang battle in the House of Representatives, or sneak your way past laser-armed robots in the Library of Congress, or steal Lincoln’s head at the Lincoln memorial to sell to slavers, you can’t help but think there’s some spatial repurposing going on.

And thus ends another of my eccentric posts.  Anyone else have stories of video game space, cyberspace, or virtual spaces they’d like to share? (Yes, I WOULD like to hear about your experiences on Facebook!)


One more question

Are we responsible for approving comments on our posts? Because there are a few comments on one of my blogs that I can’t figure out how to approve. Or even if I have that option.



Where to buy geocaching supplies in Waterloo?

Hi guys, I want to use travel bugs in our project. I found a place in Peterborough that has them but I’m not keen to do that drive and may invent some sort of equivalent (to the travel bug) if I can’t find some here in Waterloo. If anyone has any tips I’d be really grateful.
Thanks All,