New Surveillance Technologies & Their Publics: A Case of Biometrics
Public Understanding of Science, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013 Last revised: 11 Feb 2014
Date Written: January 2014
Before a newly-elected government abandoned the project in 2010, for at least eight years the British state actively sought to introduce a mandatory national identification scheme for which the science and technology of biometrics was central. Throughout the effort, representatives of the government attempted to portray biometrics as a technology that was easily understandable and readily accepted by the public. However, neither task was straightforward. Instead, particular publics emerged that showed biometric technology was rarely well understood and often disagreeable. In contrast to some traditional conceptualizations of the relationship between public understanding and science, it was often those entities that best understood the technology that found it least acceptable, rather than those populations that lacked knowledge. This paper analyzes the discourses that pervaded the case in order to untangle how various publics are formed and exhibit differing, conflicting understandings of a novel technology.
Keywords: surveillance studies; biometric identification; public understanding of science
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