Beyond Surveillance Meeting Notes for 5/20/06 at Mess Hall

Attending: D, S, Sh, W

Why am I interested in surveillance? I dislike the potential limits it puts on future action. Also, this future consequence changes what I do in the present. How much control is affected only on the basis of my own belief that it is really there? To what degree does surveillance only exist as far as I believe in it?


Looking out the window, getting up at the bumps in the night – is that surveillance? What’s so bad about surveillance? The video camera is interesting in that it is a visible symbol of the surveillance apparatus. It is difficult to get some people to go beyond the idea of right/wrong to the idea of who/what decides what is right/wrong.

With watching comes judgment.

People who didn’t grow up in the small town think the monoculture is quaint (and it sells – look at the new urbanist subdivision), while the imposed monoculture of the mediated technological government/corporate apparatus is seen as imposing. Yet, monoculture can be just as, if not more, oppressive. How many times can we call into the system? Is that more than reverse surveillance? The government/corporation consistently attempts to take on the role of the paternal/maternal (and their exceptionalism). How is the mommy/daddy/gov/corp broken? Is it a matter of telling dad’s drunken party stories? How am I culpable as a surveiller of others (teacher/mother/father/husband/wife)? and of self?

At the heart of surveillance is the idea: If you do something, there will be a consequence.

Can justice exist without surveillance?


We are taught to self-surveill from a very early age. Our very conception of self, of body, can not be separated from the issue of surveillance. To deconstruct surveillance is also to deconstruct the self. We are talking about fundamental liberation. We must examine the limits of the self. We must re-conceptualize the self. We must look into the border of self/other. Is lack or culture(surveillance) the limit of the body? (nature/nurture argument) We cannot draw a nice pure line between what is “real” self-preservation and what is culturally-based self-preservation.

What is a body? How can I become my self without seeing my self? (self-surveillance) What good is a self? There are traditions that indicate routes of no-self, such as zen buddhists, christian mystics…

We need to make the internalized surveillance mechanism visible.

What if we were to dismantle the idea of the singular space-time self, the linked self? Is that schizophrenia?


Email is worthless for big corporate advertisers because it has been flooded with spam. What if we were to take this approach to surveillance? Make the medium useless? Run the other way with it. Destroy the singular space-time it is attempting to create.

Can we look back to before surveillance? Back to the decentralized space (the “dark” ages) which did not conceptualize a singular self/other?

We must look for the contradictions, paradoxes.


There is no personal liberation without social liberation, and vice versa. There is only liberation. (Or perhaps there is only problematics.)

When we took over LSD, the crowd was acting as a singular self, on a singular collective simultaneous desire. No self or collective self. (Police remained as other.)

What are the strategic routes for desire?

I want to exercise that muscle, develop that part of the self. Eventually the collection of collective desire will lead us to the next step, collective action. It is through the control of what can be transmitted as desire, through the taboo, that collective action is controlled and the individual is atomized. Only certain desires are socially expressible, others remain – subconscious or mute or withering in our selves.


We will make a log of our desires and compare notes. What are those desires we share but are too scared to share? What are we hiding from ourselves and each other? How are we constantly surveilling ourselves?

First we will keep logs based on a singular time of day (10pm). Later we will try keeping a log based on a same/similar place. And why not take a guess at what other group members are desiring?


How can we strategically look at the issue of surveillance? How is desire strategically planned? It is done all the time – advertisers provide a few hand object choices for which you can associate/match your desire to. Police design the routes that they would like protesters to take, and break them up into small units.