Postmodern Gargoyles,Simulated PowerAesthetics
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
This work incorporates a camera as participant in the showing of experiencesof surveillance, exploring some effects of defining power as the circulation of signifiers. This techno-ethnographic piece moves through numerous spaces,documenting how myth and aesthetics are experienced and play in everydaylife, inducing performances that ultimately appear to stabilize and furtherlegitimate a globally reaching network of surveillance.
surveillance technology; aesthetics; power; panopticism;simula-cra; everyday life
uthors such as Baudrillard (1994, 2002), Virilio (1986, 2002), Dyer-Witheford(1999),and Hardt and Negri (2001) have theorized power inthe contemporary global situation as the circulation of signifiers. In terms of national and international security, this means creating and maintaining theappearance of authority and control, even if the signifiers of power mightoftenbepuresimulacra.Contemporary powerfunctionsaesthetically,work-ing cultural myths and manipulating personal fears. Panopticism is now ourcommonplace everyday experience. Is anyone actually there watching usthrough all those cameras, or is our “Big Brother” of (inter)national securityyet another myth given form through an illusive but ubiquitous aesthetic?Incorporatingelementsofautoethnography,performanceethnography,tech-nical reporting, and photo essay, this article exemplifies a methodology of technographyfromaqualitativecommunicationsresearchapproach. Takingseriously the Latourian perspective that technological devices function asactants in the social actor-network (Latour, 1992), this work exemplifies theexperience of surveillancecamera technology by incorporating the programand cultural tracings of the aesthetic of contemporary surveillance camerasintoitsnarrative.Thecameraisaparticipantinthetellingofitself,exploringthesimulacraofaestheticpowerbyturningthecameraontoothercameras—as Steve Mann puts it, surveilling the surveillers—revealing contemporary
Volume 12 Number 4August 2006 681-703© 2006 Sage Publications10.1177/1077800406286232http://qix.sagepub.comhosted athttp://online.sagepub.com