Page 25

There have, of course, been a number of surveys of public trust, debates about data architecture versus privacy rights, and digital epidemiologists’ campaigns for a cure. The one thing they all have in common is that where they are the loudest, the death toll is rising.

23

Technology Theatre The intersection of technology and politics is religious— everyone has important, valid beliefs—and nearly all the systems we have for exerting them are complex at best, and quite often exploitative. Like religion, most of the important decision-making happens behind closed doors, while the implicit benefits are made performatively and theatrically accessible to the public. And, like religion, there are a lot of benefits—especially for those willing to conform—but they, too, are complex and open to a lot of exploitation. This volume details an enormous number of these theatrics; which are unique in context, but common in tactic and structure. Put simply, the instrumentation of governmentally deployed technologies is being used to distract the public from the political impacts of their use. I call this Technology Theatre, in the tradition of Bruce Schneier’s Security Theatre,4 referring to the practice of focusing public attention on elaborate, ineffective procedures to mask the absence of a solution to a complex problem. Bruce Schneier is a digital security specialist, but the most prominent examples of security theatre usually involve high volumes of lowfidelity inconveniences, like liquid bans and shoe removal requirements in airports. The point of security theatre is to get you to focus on the inconvenience of the process, so that you don’t spend any time interrogating whether those measures have any meaningful impact on solving a real problem. Technology theatre is similar, and on full display in the COVID-19 response—most acutely in the debate around contact tracing technologies. As illustrated throughout this volume, and in the significant amount of mainstream media coverage during the early stages of the COVID-19 epidemic, governments and companies all over the world are focusing conversations on what proximity-tracking protocol is being used by apps (e.g. Bluetooth, telecom databases, GIS) and

4

Profile for Meatspace Press

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded