Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The best books on surveillance

Joanna Kavenna grew up in various parts of Britain, and has also lived in the USA, France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Her first book The Ice Museum was about traveling in the remote North, among other things. Her second was a novel called Inglorious, which won the Orange Award for New Writing. It was followed by a novel called The Birth of Love, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Then came her novel Come to the Edge, a satire. Kavenna's latest novel is Zed, "a blistering, satirical novel about life under a global media and tech corporation that knows exactly what we think, what we want, and what we do--before we do."

At the Guardian, Kavenna shared her favorite books that reveal how we are scrutinized, including:
In Dark Matters, Simone Browne notes that [Jeremy] Bentham developed his ideas [about the panopticon] while travelling on a boat carrying slaves “under the hatches”. A history of the panopticon, she argues, must incorporate 18th-century designs for slave ships, in which a central vantage point permitted a view of all the slaves onboard. The schematic for one such ship (the Brooks, which was built in 1781) depicts “tiny black figures set to represent the enslaved drawn like so many cartoon figures”, Browne writes. Under the panopticon, unique mortals are diminished into a mass, seen through a one-way mirror.
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue