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Title:Our Biometric Future: The Social Construction of an Emerging Information Technology
Author(s):Gates, Kelly Allison
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Angharad Valdivia
Department / Program:Communications
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Information Science
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the social and cultural dimensions of new information technologies known as biometrics. Biometrics are designed to generate digital readings of the body as a means of identifying individuals, enlisting a number of communication technologies, including photography, video, and computer hardware and software. Applications include criminal identification, border control, building and computer security. This project examines the social construction of facial recognition, a unique and technically challenging type of biometric, from early research and development in the 1960s to its incorporation into the US-VISIT automated entry/exit system mandated by post-9/11 U.S. federal policy. The methodology combines cultural analysis, political economy, and the social construction of technology (SCOT) approach, drawing from scientific articles, press accounts, U.S. government documents, company web sites and publicity materials, conference proceedings, popular culture texts, interviews with individuals involved in biometric research and implementation, participant observation at industry conferences, and a site visit to Tampa, Florida to observe a biometric system in operation. The questions addressed throughout the dissertation concern precisely what is new about biometrics, how and why they are becoming incorporated into our institutional and cultural practices, and with what social and political implications. The translation of the body into data for the purposes of identification is a need and a practice peculiar to the digital age, although not without connections to history, especially to the problems of identification related to the expansion of the modern state. The aim of the latest innovation in identification systems is to automate the process of connecting bodies to identities in order to control access---access to the benefits of citizenship, to the national territory, to information and computer networks, to transportation systems, and to specific spaces of consumption and safety. The evidence suggests that the emergence of these new access control technologies is an integral dimension of the transition to what Dan Schiller calls "informationalized capitalism." They signal the rise of an intensified security consciousness that has accompanied the commodification of information, the global spread of information networks, and the privatization of public space occurring as part of the post-industrial redevelopment of cities.
Issue Date:2004
Description:261 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3153298
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2004

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