The March issue of Frieze deals with Big Data, surveillance, and related topics. We already looked at the survey called 'Safety in Numbers?' with short essays by Trevor Paglen, Martha Rosler and others.
There is also co-editor Jörg Heiser's intro, 'Count Down: The art world’s ambivalent response to surveillance.'
We may have overlooked this longer article on Philip K. Dick. Please give it a read, as it ties in nicely with the film and other things we've been discussing. Here's an excerpt:
All Watched Over
Did Philip K. Dick predict the future of surveillance?
R. Crumb, illustration from ‘The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick’ published in Weirdo #7, 1986. Courtesy: © Robert Crumb, 1986
‘A cage went in search of a bird.’
Franz Kafka, ‘Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way’ (1917–19)1
In Philip K. Dick’s 1974 novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Jason Taverner, a pop singer and variety show host with an audience of 30 million, wakes up one day to the ultimate nightmare for celebrities like himself and social media users under the age of 40: according to the world’s databanks, he does not exist. Given that he lives in a near-future usa recast as a high-tech police state, Taverner must not only contend with bruised vanity and existential dread in his newfound status as an ‘unperson’, he needs id and a credible web of data trails that, in his networked world (and ours), constitute evidence of an authentic human life. ‘I can’t live two hours without my id,’ Taverner reflects upon discovering his predicament. ‘I’ll spend the rest of my life as a slave doing heavy manual labor [...] One random check by a mobile vehicle and a crew of three. With their damn radio gear connecting them to pol-nat data central in Kansas City. Where they keep the dossiers.’2
Data central, where they keep the dossiers. I’ve a feeling it’s not in Kansas any more (though it may be in Utah). In the 21st century, where George Orwell’s centralized, all-seeing Big Brother has turned out to be a vast, interconnected network of Little Brothers, each a ‘data central’, your digital dossier is available for inspection, analysis and redistribution by a broad array of corporations and government agencies, sometimes working in tandem. Information-based surveillance of this sort had long suffered under the inelegant rubric ‘dataveillance’ until the emergence, in recent years, of a buzzword as seemingly cuddly as it is ominous: Big Data.