Monthly Archives: June 2013

picture by hope for gorilla (@flickr)

On 3 July 2013 LSTS director Serge Gutwirth will give a presentation on ‘Les choses du droit, in the context of the Colloquium ‘Gestes spéculatifs‘. Taking place from 28 June to 5 July at the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, the Colloquium is co-directed by Didier Debaise and Isabelle Stengers, and its list of speakers notably includes Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway. More information can be found here.


The second episode of our [MUSIC & …] series is again devoted to MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE. In his excellent 2008 paper on the subject, ‘Soul Train: The New Surveillance in Popular Music‘, professor Gary T. Marx analysed popular music’s lyrics in search of insights about surveillance. His contribution left nevertheless open the question of what happens when there are no lyrics: Can instrumental music tell something about the subject?

trans am the surveillance coverTrans Am thinks it can. In 1997, as they were recording their third opus not far from Washington DC, the trio felt its music echoed the increasingly oppressive presence of cameras, alarms and surveillance devices, and, generally,  how America was surrendering to feelings of insecurity and paranoia. They named the resulting record  The surveillance‘. Its mixture of noise, prog and krautrock with rudimentary electronics evokes indeed a series of adventurous detours through bumpy roads, like a useless attempt to avoid a Kraftwerk’s autobahn suddenly equipped with automatic plate recognition technology by driving too fast. Song titles such as “Armed response“, “Home security” and “Extreme measures” firmly connect the tracks to the surveillance narrative. Together with “Endgame”, which is (just) a never-ending drone in the vinyl version, they appear as amazingly preemptive for a pre-9/11 record.

Trans Am’s fascination with technology continued to develop in ‘Futureworld (1999). What did the trio actually do after 9/11? They signed an even more critical Liberation(2004), featuring the track ‘Total Information Awareness’ and real police helicopters, but also ‘TA’ (2002), a sort of conceptual record about bad records, in a combination of humour and politics that not everybody followed smoothly.  Text by Gloria González Fuster 

picture by alasam(@flikcr)

LSTS Researchers Gertjan Boulet and Paul De Hert have contributed to the Policy Brief ‘Open Season for Data Fishing on the Web: The Challenges of the US PRISM Programme for the EU’, published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The paper discusses recent relevations on the US intelligence-led PRISM Programme, and puts forward a series of policy recommendations. Download the pdf.

picture by lrosengreen (@flickr)

In the context of the ‘Information and Communications Technology for Environmental Regulation: Developing a Research Agenda‘ Workshop to take place on 20 and 21 June 2013 in Galway (Ireland), LSTS Researcher Raphaël Gellert will give a presentation titled ‘Cross-pollination
between privacy/data protection and sustainable development: the cases
of smart grids and smart cities‘. More information, including the detailed programme, can be found here.

Welcome to the new [MUSIC & …] posts series, exploring the relation between music and the many subjects around which turns LSTS research. This opening post is dedicated to MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE, more particularly to Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, one of the masters of artistic eavesdropping. Born in London, Rimbaud started to produce electronic music in the 1990s using as sound sources voices and noises obtained by intercepting private phone calls and police transmisions. He would often play live sets exclusively based on conversations tapped in real time in front of the audience, a practice not deprived of (legal) controversy.

scanner colofon & compendium An excellent entry point to his work is Colofon & Compendium (1991-1994),  published in 2012 by the Belgian label Sub Rosa. This double LP, which collects mostly unreleased material from his digital archives, combines strangers’ dialogues, abstract sound constructions and bizarre noises resulting in unique textural electronics.

When Scanner originally produced these compositions, his approach came as extremely modern, heralding a new era of surveillance facilitated by the increasingly pervasive presence of wireless communications. With hindsight, the surveillance practices it evokes seem touchingly artisanal and innocent, at least compared to current communications’ monitoring techniques, transforming these recordings into a particularly moving (out)dated futuristic science-fiction. What is perhaps more poignant, however, is how, behind the eerie noises, the ghostly sounds, and the daunting static, people sound distriburingly communicative and even intermentently happy, perfectly unaware that someone is listening, and of who is out there. Text by Gloria González Fuster 

picture by jonmasters (@flickr)

On 25 and 26 June 2013 will take place in Barcelona the 9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics (IDP 2013), devoted to ‘Big Data: Challenges & Opportunities’. The event’s first day will include amongs its highlights a keynote by Mireille Hildebrandt (‘Slaves of Big Data. Are we?‘), and the presentation by LSTS researcher Irina Baraliuc of a paper titled ‘Intellectual Privacy: A Fortress for the Individual User?’. Information on how to register can be found here.