Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Surveillence/Capture : Space/Time

One difference between the surveillance model and capture model is articulated through Virilio’s argument that “real time has superseded real space.” In world where information can travel at increasingly higher speeds (as he says in his other article, “real time abolishes the historical primacy of local time.”) location and space are increasingly unimportant.
Foucault’s discipline-mechanism, as shown by the panopticon, spatially organizes individuals: “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place…in which each individual is constantly located…” When this model operates in society, it controls individuals by making them productive facets of a larger, hierarchal system, subtly restricting their liberty of movement. F writes that “discipline fixes; it arrests or regulates movements; it clears up confusion;…it established calculated distributions.” What is distinct here is the discipline model’s focus on spatial organization and distribution as a way of control.
On the other hand, tracking (a form of capture) registers changes and state-variations over time. Furthermore, the “grammars of actions” that Agre uses to describe the way computers represent/map already existing systems are composed of actions or “state-changes.” I think what is that any time a computer wants to capture information/data, it can only do so based on a user’s change in status—on a most basic level, a computer captures data based on changes over time. Agre says that this allows for a freedom and a mobility that is not enjoyed by people in “Tayloized” work (from the explanation a few weeks ago of Taylorism, it seems to be akin to Foucault’s disciplinary society.) This distinction between space and time is also an element in Agre’s summary of differences between the surveillance and the capture models, “The surveillance model is concerned to mark of a “private” region by means of territorial metaphors of “invasion” and the like; the capture model portrays captured activities as being constructed in real time…”
I it makes sense that computer’s capture is time based rather than space based (what Virilio and Agre are arguably implying), but it’s still interesting to speculate about how this came about. To do this, I’m going to go on a short tangent here at the end about these ideas of mobility. Is it relevant at all that we are physically immobile when we sit in front of the computer? For all of the spatial organization and control of a disciplinary society, humans were probably more physically mobile under that form of power. Even if we are virtually more mobile when our actions are being captured online rather than being under surveillance, have we sacrificed material mobility for virtual mobility? Perhaps space is no longer important not only because it has been superseded by real-time, but because we now have the navigable space of the computer described by Manovich. The experience of physical immobility sitting in front of a computer may seem silly until you consider other trends in the new media world: trading a physical body for a virtual one, confusing actual and virtual rape, and trading real space for navigable space.

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