Towards an Autopoiesis of Surveillance


Session Title:

  • Surveillance

Presentation Title:

  • Towards an Autopoiesis of Surveillance



  • (Short paper)

    Keywords: Surveillance, autopoiesis, networks, new media art, Foucault, Deleuze, Maturana & Varela, cybernetics, protocol

    Surveillance has now become a ubiquitous phenomenon that envelops the globe in an uneven and non-transparent manner. While the work of Foucault (the panopticon and the administration of subjectivities) and Deleuze (the control society with its reliance on communication and marketing) provides powerful tools for understanding the surveillance apparatus, closer attention to its digitally networked nature must be given. To this end, the work of Nancy Paterson’s IXMaps and Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev’s PRISM: The Beacon Frame provide morphological samples of the autopoiesis of surveillance. Autopoiesis, a concept related to cybernetics and developed by Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Valera, posits the existence of self-sustaining and regenerating unified systems of relations that are indifferent to their components. Autopoiesis, they argue, is a necessary and sufficient condition to consider a particular system living or otherwise. We speculate at the end of this paper the degree to which the global surveillance apparatus might be considered a living organism, albeit one of our own accidental design, and what the possible implications might be.

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