Brockington Visitor: N. Katherine Hayles

The Surveillance Studies Centre is pleased to welcome N. Katherine Hayles to Queen's University as the 2010-11 Brockington Visitor.

N. Katherine Hayles, Professor of Literature at Duke University, teaches and writes on the relations of science, technology and literature in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her book How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics won the Rene Wellek Prize for the Best Book in Literary Theory in 1998-99, and her book Writing Machines won the Suzanne Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in 2002. Her work has been recognized by numerous fellowships and honors, including a Guggenheim, two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, a Rockefeller Residential Fellowship, and a University of California Presidential Research Fellowship. She is currently at work on a book entitled How We Think: Transforming Power and Digital Technologies.

Brockington Lecture: In the Shadows of Surveillance: Secret Codes in the Telegraph Era

presented by N. Katherine Hayles

Robert Sutherland Room 202

Thursday, October 21, 2010

5:00 pm

The telegraph was the first long-range communication technology where it was not only possible but absolutely necessary for a third party to read the message. In this sense, the possibility of surveillance became not a contingent on-again-off-again practice but a systemic intervention; privacy thus became less a right than a practice that depended on the professionalization of telegraphers to maintain, regulate, and preserve . In response, a counter-technology of telegraph code books arose, some of which were tightly regulated to control who had access to the codes. In addition, the authors of these books also suggested variations that would allow users to modify the printed codes to ensure still greater secrecy. The evolution of these codes reveals a changing dynamic between human and machine cognition. As the codes moved from human-centric to machine-centric constructions from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, human expertise moved from the sending and receiving of messages to the invention, construction and maintenance of machines that would send and receive the messages. Thus the enterprise of subverting surveillance had the effect of weaving ever tighter the co-evolution of machine and human cognition, anticipating the construction of computer codes and their mediations of human language (as well as the problems of surveillance associated with the Web and digital transmissions).

This is a public lecture. A reception follows at the University Club.

Surveillance Studies Centre Seminar Series: “Databases, Postindustrial Knowledge Work, and Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts

Thursday, October 21st

12:30pm to 1:30pm

Kingston Hall room 201

In discussing databases, Alan Liu makes the point that they conform to the requirements of postindustrial knowledge work, namely that it be transformable, automated, and autonomously mobile. This talk explores the implications of databases for posthuman subjectivity in the context of Steven Hall's novel The Raw Shark Texts.

Everyone welcome!