Lonneke van der Velden at the DataPublics workshop


Under the header ‘governing publics’, Lonneke van der Velden presented her work at the DataPublics conference April 1st. For more detail on the outline and schedule of the event, see their website.

The presentation can be watched online!


The materiality of surveillance publics

This presentation discusses the materiality of surveillance publics. Notions of material publics are particularly useful to think about activist interventions into surveillance. Digital surveillance is considered to be a rather intangible phenomenon. However, now and then, surveillance gets ‘exposed’, for example through leaks that disclose surveillance technologies or by using software that can detect online tracking. These interventions (sometimes dubbed ‘countersurveillance’ or ‘sousveillance’) manage to transform digital surveillance practices into public knowledge repositories that can be studied and, in some cases, this results into new online investigative tools. In the presentation I demonstrate how surveillance can become ‘public matter’: in the process of turning surveillance into a matter of concern, surveillance becomes itself ‘datafied’, and this material can be used for public ends. In other words, they give rise to ‘data publics’. Moreover, these interventions assemble very specific data publics: these publics are situated in socio-technical environments in which intelligence, secrecy, and privacy practices codetermine the modes of working, and thus, interestingly, making things private coincides with ways of making things public.


DataPublics will investigate the diverse ways in which publics are, and can be, constituted, provoked, threatened, understood, and represented. This includes examining the role played in the formation of publics by new on- and offline infrastructures, data visualisations, social and economic practices, research methods and creative practices, and emerging and future technologies. Specifically, the event will facilitate cross-cutting conversations between designers, social scientists and creative technologists to explore the new challenges and opportunities afforded by thinking and working with “Data Publics”.