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Challenging Communication Research


Edited By Leah A. Lievrouw

Communication scholarship has not enjoyed the same kind of theoretical cohesion or ontological security as some disciplines. The field’s intellectual «roving eye» and resistance to establishing a single core body of knowledge has inspired serial rounds of soul-searching and existential doubt among communication scholars, on one hand, and celebration and intellectual adventurism, on the other. The theme of the 2013 ICA annual conference thus raised an interesting question: For a field that is perpetually in flux and «decentered», what exactly is, or should be, challenged? How, and by whom?
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the top papers presented in London, suggest that the challenges themselves are constantly being reinvented, broken down and reorganized. The communication discipline undergoes continuous change rather than following an orderly, stepwise path toward the neat, complete accumulation of knowledge. The chapters challenge familiar approaches, notions or assumptions in communication research and scholarship and reflect on the field’s multifaceted and increasingly open character in an era of shifting social relations, formations and technologies.
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Chapter Eleven: Possibilities for Queering Surveillance Infrastructure: The Case of the Quantified Self


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Possibilities FOR Queering Surveillance Infrastructure

The Case of the Quantified Self


Much critical research focuses on the use of surveillance technique as a means of normalizing, managing, and policing populations (Gandy, 1993; Haggerty & Ericson, 2006; Norris & Armstrong, 1999). Others attempt to understand how surveillance can be engaged in the constitution of non-normative identities and perverse social configurations (McGrath, 2004; Koskela, 2009). This research joins that latter group. It brings together surveillance theory, queer theory, and infrastructure studies in an attempt to understand how systems and practices of surveillance can be made accessible to individuals and groups to interrogate normalizing practices, and to further their own explorations and constructions of self in relation to others. It tries to imagine what a queer infrastructure of surveillance might look like.

Surveillance here is understood in a specific sense as a four-stage process of knowledge production. In the first stage, members of a population are individualized and made uniquely identifiable. In the second stage, the actions or attributes of these uniquely identified individuals are monitored and recorded. In the third stage, the recorded data are conglomerated across the population and subjected to analysis to discover categories, patterns, and norms. In the final stage, this new population-level knowledge is applied back to the population, to individuals within it, and to the surveillance process itself (Foucault, 1977;...

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