Call for Papers: Edited Collection

Surveillance, Architecture and Control: Discourses on Spatial Culture

As our current political and cultural climate elucidates, the modern world has become increasingly fascinated by surveillance systems. Popular television series’ such as Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale speak of our fears of being controlled by those watching us, whilst remastered movies such as Blade Runner 2049 harness our inherent desire for, and ultimate reliance upon, technology’s advancement. The systems of hypersurveillance shored up in these examples demonstrate not only our Orwellian fear of being immersed in such systems, but also our active participation in their creation and perpetuation. In both examples, it is the architectural frames and division of boundaries which plays a fundamental part in controlling and dominating the individual. Westworld’s Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) controls his androids and their ‘roles’ via the vast network system at Westworld’s headquarters, which in turn controls the space of the ‘game’; Offred is controlled by Gilead’s network of spies and informers, as well as by her position as the handmaid, confined to the attic’s uncomfortable surroundings. Both examples demonstrate the power of architectural space to maintain prescribed roles, and the manner in which these frames create boundaries which cannot be transgressed (the space of Westworld’s hyperreal landscape and the territory of Gilead).

In these narratives of urban futures, architecture’s capacity as a vehicle for surveillance appears to be both inherent, and silent in its power exertion. Architectural frames can be both large and yet hidden; both unremarkable and active. They are spaces which can observe and not be observed. With the advancement of technology, Bentham’s panopticon no longer requires the centralisation of localised sight, but rather, can be omnipresent throughout a system of spaces. Flows of people and of culture between interior and exterior spaces are central to many contemporary narratives, and to use McLuhan’s term ‘the medium is the message’, structures and spaces play an integral part in fictions of control.

As Laura Poitras’ film Project X (2016) demonstrated, architectural frames perpetuate the division between visible and invisible, being themselves part of the matrix of observer and observed. In a world of surveillance practices and control regimes, traditional design specialisms have broken down. Architecture, service design and public art are all affected by and affect surveillance practices and have profound consequences for the division between private and public space. The ambition of modern architecture to blur the division between inside and outside is surely realized, yet the omnipresence of glass and of ‘being seen’ is no longer about transparency, it is about surveillance. The window is a technology of control.

Recent work in the field of surveillance studies has demonstrated the potential for the gaze to transgress the lens of technology, and instead, to reside within systems relating to art, literature, film, and the body. This collection seeks to expand the interdisciplinary nature of concerns over the surveillance of the individual into that of architecture. Drawing on some of the themes in the editors’ previous collections Spaces of Surveillance: States and Selves (2017), and Surveillance, Race, Culture (forthcoming in 2018), this collection seeks to

explore instances of surveillance within and around specific architectural entities, both real and created, in works of fiction, film, photography, performance and art. Drawing on both Bentham’s and Foucault’s frameworks, we seek contributions from scholars working within the humanities, social sciences and technology, design and environment. This collection takes a cultural studies approach to depictions of surveillance and seeks to engender new debates about canonical and new narratives.

Chapter topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Narratives of spatial design and surveillance.
  • Urban futures and architectural forms on screen.
  • Digital technologies and branded spaces in narratives of the future.
  • The manner in which frames (built, figurative, symbolic) can create/inhibit identity narratives, and the impact of surveillance on bodies within specific environments.
  • Confining structures; disability, illness and mental health settings.
  • Alternative bodies in alternative spaces.
  • How the built space (cities, landscapes, etc) can shape individuals into types of

citizens, and can categorise bodies.

  • The performativity of gender, race and sexuality within spatial locations under the camera eye, and the manner in which it is framed and manipulated by the gaze.
  • The role of art installations and gallery space in determining how art is viewed, read and inscribed.
  • The role of architectural spaces/surfaces (windows etc) in enabling the surveillance of bodies and the surveillance of others through literature, film and television.
  • The geographical and physical positioning of surveillance technologies and the manner in which location can permit/prohibit identity creation through active viewing.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words including a title, along with a biographical note and email address, to Dr Antonia Mackay antoniamackay@brookes.ac.uk and Dr. Susan Flynn s.flynn@lcc.arts.ac.uk by the 20th November 2017.

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