MAT 595M Seminar Series

Dataveillance and Countervailence

February 7, 2011
5:30 pmto7:00 pm

Speaker: Rita Raley, Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara


The logics of securitization and mass customization have resulted in quantitative as well as qualitative shifts in data collection practices in the last decade. Large-scale data-aggregating corporations such as Acxiom and ChoicePoint and increasingly sophisticated tracking technologies such as Flash cookies and beacons indicate a shift in scale, while the emergence of data exchanges indicate a shift in the evaluation and “appreciation” of data itself. Predictive and automated data mining tools for assessing risk developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – e.g. the Automated Targeting System, STAR (System to Assess Risk), and the ill-fated ADVISE program – have been widely assailed not only with respect to the politics of data mining but also with respect to privacy rights. So, too, the Wall Street Journal’s ongoing series on dataveillance starkly warns its readers to attend to the question of “What They Know,” even as it speculates upon the economic growth potential of data mining. This paper will consider modes of critical response to practices of data collection, aggregation, and monetization – responses whose engagements are at once aesthetic and political, participatory and productive. In particular, it will focus upon the reiterative tactics of media artists who mimetically reproduce the practices of data collection and calculation so as to speculate upon issues of privacy, surveillance, and governmentality.


Rita Raley is Associate Professor of English, with courtesy appointments in Film and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, and Global Studies. Her primary research interests lie at the intersection of digital media and humanist inquiry, with a particular emphasis on cultural critique, artistic practices, and language (codework, machine translation, electronic literature, and electronic English). Her book, Tactical Media, a study of new media art in relation to neoliberal globalization, has been published by the University of Minnesota Press in its “Electronic Mediations” series.

Her most recent publications include the co-edited Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 2, as well as articles on poetic and narratological uses of mobile and locative media and text-based media arts installations. In addition to ongoing research on digital poetics and interventionist media arts practices, she continues work on Global English and the Academy, excerpts of which have been published in The Yale Journal of Criticism and Diaspora.

In the English department at UCSB, she currently directs the Transcriptions Center (original website) and co-directs the Literature and Culture of Information specialization. She has had fellowship appointments at the National Humanities Center and UCLA, as part of the Mellon-funded project on the Digital Humanities, and has taught at Rice and the University of Minnesota. In Spring 2011 she will hold a short-term Fulbright appointment with “ELMCIP: Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice” at the University of Bergen, Norway.