Corporeal Control: Wearable Electronic Monitoring Devices, 1989-2013
"It's a similar sensation to handcuffs being tight, but having them attached for three months of your life".
At the beginning of my research into the surveillance of offenders through electronic monitoring, I was disheartened with the lack of interest concerning the monitored body and the everyday experience of the tag wearer. After reading testimonies of former offenders, I discovered that the wearable device could be uncomfortable, impractical and could attract stigma when made visible. The silenced voices of former tag wearers provoked me to investigate further, constructing my dissertation around the untold stories of the monitored body.
This dissertation explores wearable monitoring systems between the years 1989–2013 and investigates four different devices and their individual methods of monitoring the body. The first chapter explores the spatial surveillance of offenders using electronic tags. Chapter two is built around Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) bracelets, their effect upon the body and the social responses generated by the visible item. The final chapter investigates self-monitoring devices, worn to record bodily statistics concerning health and fitness and the effect self-surveillance has upon the wearer.
Built around the design and history of these four wearable technologies, this dissertation explores ideas of power, agency and the body with reference to human experience and surveillance. In order to further understand the sensation of being monitored, I interviewed a number of monitoring device wearer to construct a history of wearable surveillance technologies and their users.
School of Humanities
MA History of Design, 2014
During the History of Design MA, I became fascinated with the material culture of surveillance and different devices designed to monitor the human body. My dissertation examined different theoretical approaches to the topic of surveillance and also used extensive object analysis and interviews to build a user-centred approach to four different wearable monitoring technologies. I am extremely interested in ideas of power and control and how these manifest themselves in art, design and everyday objects.
My methodology examines embodied experience and the ways that art and design can affect everyday life; due to this approach I am particularly interested in contemporary history and the use of interviews and oral histories to gain more insight into everyday, lived experiences.
In addition to this, I have always pursued an interest in gender studies and explored this further during the second year of the MA when I organised an AcrossRCA-week project titled ‘Art, Design and the Female Body’ with three classmates.
In future, I would ideally like to pursue my interests in power, control and surveillance further and hope to complete a PhD, allowing more extensive research into these intriguing topics.
- BA (Hons) History of Art, University of Birmingham, 2012
- Editor-in-chief, Unmaking Things, London, 2013–2014; Research volunteer, V&A Oral History Project, V&A, London, 2013; Workshop co-Ordinator, Art, Design and the Female Body, Royal College of Art, London, 2013; Exhibition invigilator, The Strength and Vulnerability Bunker, Koestler Prison Art Awards, Southbank Centre, London, 2013; Archive assistant, The RBSA Gallery, Birmingham, 2011–2012; Researcher, 'Four Cities' Research Scholarship, University of Birmingham, 2011
- Birmingham Artist William John Wainwright (1855-1931): Characters and Costumes, The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Birmingham, 2011
- V&A Travel Fund, 2013
- 'Conspicuous Criminality: Electronic Monitoring in England and Wales', Talking Presently: A Symposium on the Historian's Study of the Contemporary, V&A, 6 December 2013; 'A Virtual Prison: Electronically Monitoring Offenders, 1989 - 2013', Postgraduate Forum on Genetics and Society: Scientific Innovation in the Biosociety, University of Leeds, 25 June 2013
- 'Blind Date: Bluetooth Romance in Saudi Arabia', ARC, 17.3, 2013, pp.18-19