Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Under Surveillance? God's eye, the face of the other and the promise of peace.

Three evening seminars:
  • January 7th, 2013 - God & Google
  • January 14th, 2013 - Face & Book
  • January 21st - Seeing & Security
The course is led by David Lyon, Queen’s University (sscqueens.org/davidlyon)

Recommended reading:

Surveillance Studies: An Overview by David Lyon (Polity 2007)
Liquid Surveillance by Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon (Polity 2013)
Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance Society: Watching and Being Watched by
Eric Stoddart (Ashgate 2011) [Expensive! Try Google Books]
“A surveillance of care: evaluating surveillance ethically” by Eric Stoddart, in the
Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies (available as an e-Book at Stauffer).

Liquid Surveillance and Surveillance Studies are available on reserve in Stauffer and for sale in the Queen's authors section of the Campus Bookstore

Where? St James’ Anglican Church, on Queen’s campus; Union at Barrie.

When? Mondays 7:00-9:30 including refreshment break

How much? $30 regular; $20 student

More detailed information after the jump!

invisiblecollege January 2013

Under surveillance?
God’s eye, the face of the other and the promise of peace

This three-part crash course on contemporary surveillance explores personal data,
public safety and social media in the light of three major biblical themes. With the
world of information in one hand and the word of wisdom in the other we’ll expose
the commonalities and the clashes in hope of finding fresh ways forward. How
far are Google Street View or Facebook’s Timeline like God’s eye and should that
thought be scary or reassuring? Does our network identity make us more or less
human and why does it matter? Does the idea of digital discipleship make sense?
What does citizenship mean in a surveillance-suffused world? Whom can we trust
and what should we hope for?

January 07 God and Google

Whether or not you call it “surveillance” it’s clear that in the digital domain we are
watched. Indeed, since 2009 our Google searches have been personalized, such
that we get the responses Google thinks we want. Google checks and categorizes
us, assessing our preferences. Such sorting is basic to surveillance. Google’s
activities have been described as analogous to the “eye of God.” How did we get
from Hieronymus Bosch’s-all-seeing-eye-of-God in the medieval painting of “Seven
Deadly Sins” to a world in which googling offers our personal details to businesses,
governments and police? And what does abstract, atomized and disembodied data
have to do with humans, who are living, relational and embodied? If God “sees” us,
what kind of knowledge is this? Can it help us assess surveillance today?

January 14 Face and Book

Non-users may wring their hands about social media but Facebook actually
diagnoses us rather well. It holds up a mirror to show what kind of society we’ve
become. A world dominated by consumer desires, short-term commitments and
fluid relationships needs Facebook. In the first flush of mid-twentieth century
consumerism, Vance Packard exposed the “hidden persuaders” of advertising.
Today, by collecting consumer data in spades, companies create the consumers they
need and we comply with the process. Indeed the business face is its brand and now
we let our faces be our brand, too. But the face, according to the Good Book, is far
more. Indeed, focusing on the face yields crucial clues for dealing with the digital.
This starting point helps us engage quite differently with the Facebook world.

Jan 21 Seeing and Security

Since 9/11 we have all become more aware of surveillance for security but does
submitting to biometrics and barcodes, scans and street-cams, make us safer? All
surveillance sorts us into groups so that we can be treated differently and the “usual
suspects” – Arabs and Muslims, black youth or women-on-welfare – scarcely feel
safer! How far should we put our trust in surveillance to keep us safe? What if the
goals of surveillance were less “preventing harms” and more “human flourishing”?
In the biblical big picture security is a product of peace, which in turn starts with
justice. What would happen if we thought in terms of these different priorities? How
would we alter our own surveillance practices – like day-care cams or Foursquare
monitoring -- and how would we ask organizations to use cameras, scanners and


Q Who can attend?
A Anyone interested. This is for local community and students.

Q What does God say about surveillance?
A Come and find out. “Thou God seest me.” If God is all-seeing there must be a link.

Q Facebook gives me what I want – status, friends, a picture, a profile. Why should I
care how it does it?
A Because Facebook reveals what much marketing does – sorts us into categories
so we can be treated differently. Our identities, our opportunities are affected.

Q I care about my safety. What’s wrong with surveillance giving me security?
A Ever heard of “security theatre”? Seriously, this question needs unpacking.

Q You teach this stuff. Is this just a recycled Queen’s course?
A No. It’s a chance to explain how I fuse my faith with my research and teaching.
And to challenge all of us to think and act Christianly in our world.

Q Do I have to be a card-carrying Christian to sign up?
A See the first question. This is for anyone prepared to see beyond the box.

Q Will I get credit?
A Not from Queen’s, RMC or St Lawrence. A credit-free zone. Do it for love.

Q How do I register?
A Email invisiblecollegekingston [at] gmail [dot] com to say you’re coming. Pay up first

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