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Rhetorics of Control
Principal Investigator: Ph-J Salazar
Sponsor: NRF, Blue Skies Grant (GUN 81695)
Duration: 2012 - 2014

Summary:

Democratic societies, while they accord the highest value to public forms of persuasion, in essence the backbone of free speech and free communication, and constitutional politics and justice, have developed a wide range of practices of surveillance and intelligence that create, alongside a "field of autonomy", an ever- growing "field of control" which, in turn, is left mostly outside public debate or brought to the public attention as entertainment, fiction or as ways to better one's life or propel political "change" (typically, the added value of "social networks").

Public discourse is covertly and massively shaped and reshaped either by procedures of surveillance (CCTV cameras that monitor access to perimeters, as in "skid row" urban areas ; nanotechnologies of "somatic surveillance" developed by industry, the military and medical domains, and complex online systems) and by procedures of intelligence (data gathering preceding governmental action; instruments of so called "public" diplomacy; reformulation of science knowledge to shape opinion and influence elections; intelligence's use of social networking tools).

Most of these procedures are known to the specialists, and most democratic countries have in place some form of procedures for parliamentary or regulatory accountability.

However, little is debated about them in public concerning their actual effects on democratic discourse. In light of recent disclosures on "Wikileaks" and immediate, ill- informed and reactive debates over the loss of privacy inherent in social networking tools such as Facebook, the deeper, reflective and long-term corollary issue is both how institutions make public claims about the necessity of keeping secrets and undertaking covert surveillance (both domestic and international); and how intelligence gathering and surveillance practices traditionally associated with the state have been introduced to forms of everyday interaction, and thus covertly 'normalised.'

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Last update December 2013/Next update July 2014