Answer: That the cops want to tattoo you with a bar-code: either the number of the beast, or the number of the National Insurance.
But that's silly. They don't want to tattoo you with a bar code. Firm believers in self-representation, they simply want to turn you into your own bar code. The sections of the Criminal Justice Act and of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that allow the police to take 'intimate' and 'non-intimate' body samples are recent additions to a line of mechanisms including phrenology, the science of the recognition of criminal facial types and fingerprinting (notably the troubled systems of electronic fingerprint recognition), that induct the citizen into performing physically within the techno-juridical framework. The Queen's family of dogs and thousands of other pets might have recently had chips implanted in their necks, but as far as her human livestock goes control is seeking to abolish all mediating and alienating technology in its pursuit of the authentic: located for now, in DNA. Just as abolishing the right to silence makes you produce speech - to become the perfect mirror to control - by drawing genetic evidence directly from criminalised meat, they can make it perform as traitor to itself: without even having to look despotic. Here the deciding essence of humanity wavers uncertainly between the Turing test and a urine test Criminality has always been thoroughly located in flesh. Dysfunctional units off the production line of the universalised subject, the criminalised are the tokens of exchange through which the cop sub-economy runs. You don't know where your body ends and discipline begins. Municipal body invaders such as Southwark Council in London are doing random blood tests on childcare staff, checking for drugs and booze. What you did the night before is not your own business as work discipline extends as the metric for all areas of life. The new Jobseekers Allowance measures to be introduced next April for people receiving income support or unemployment benefit will even include a dress code for people in receipt of the state's bounteous crumbs. You are required to produce yourself as a screen upon which Control can be seen to do the right thing. Sub-dermal video running slo-mo through the Home Shopping Network, Brookside, the News at Ten: the Identity Channel. But, if the state is (rather outdatedly) after your body, the supermarkets are after your soul, or at least that major part of it dedicated to snack food purchase control. As the Critical Art Ensemble point out in Addictionmania: "Data bases are overflowing with information about consumers, both in terms of aggregates based on racial and social categories, and in terms of personal portfolios tracing the spending habits of individual consumers. (Information is kept that ranges from the useful to the useless: People with dogs tend to purchase Ragu spaghetti sauce, while people with cats tend to buy Prego). The status of the consumer as a being in the world is removed from an organic centre and is decentered in the circulation of the electronic file. Spending patterns and credit history become the being of the individual in the marketplace."3
Control is caught between its urge to become the solar eye - seeking oblivion and escape from worry by knowing everything - and its insatiable nervous hunger for stimulation. Either way it wants to see things from a perspective that no organic eye can ever enjoy. On the one hand, the urge to totalisation, to become god, on the other: the vision addict that even when it has data streaming through it at terabits a second still feels like it's padlocked inside a floatation tank, desperate for stimulation. You can never know enough. The tendency to oblivion becomes micro-fascism: blanking out and realising itself through the Branch Davidians or the Royal Enclosure at the Henley Regatta. A relatively self-sustaining, simple and closed pattern that replicates through the intake of new material, or that programmes itself into an inevitable cataclysm. In order to feed, Control has to develop eyes like a fly, to create more borders than it can watch over, to string itself out into night patrols, laboratories, customer surveys, data mines, always afraid of dissolving into the white noise of what it watches. As a god that demands good works to get into heaven Control spends its time slapping its arms under a blue light: desperate for any new vein. This hunger inevitably changes Control, reconfigures it. It may even cut itself open to implant prosthetics that will do things better.
The laws against drinking in town centres, spearheaded by safety fetishist Coventry in the mid-eighties, were only feasible if large scale video-surveillance was available - it was a crime almost created by the possibility of its detection. For instance, where I live there is no law against drinking in the central area - in fact, it's pretty much essential to be clutching your Tennants. The cops only carry out harrying missions on the covens of pissheads when they start to convene in too large a number. The council has recently tidied the place up by uprooting a couple of chairs people used to sit and drink on so that they have had to move on to empty bread crates, but that's something else - just plain old positional warfare. What happens in places where the opportunity for surveillance is introduced on a large scale is that Control gets the itch, and gets it bad, so much so that it starts to invent new forms of crime to satisfy its craving. Rapturously dreaming of itself as a perfect gleaming lattice of domination that expands into the future through migration into technology, the techno-juridical system engineers new definitions of criminality according to what it is newly able to sense.
Q: How do you control an area in which an angry, unpredictable crowd is moving? A: Expand your definition of that area into time. Get the cameras out. Let the riot happen, but get it on camera and store it. Examine every malignant pixel.
The police, almost by definition, are there to be the most reactionary body in society. Cop-structure has historical programming, tradition, institutional memory, heuristics - it is used to certain situations. But, as Control is increasingly reconfigured by its migration into technology as an alienated series of switches, gates and relays with cops and judges becoming a soft interface to the legal machine, it is likely that the impact of high-technologies on the rigid cop-structure has, far from making them more powerful, sometimes disrupted their ability to maintain business as usual.
Anyone who has attended a demonstration or football match in the last couple of years will have noticed that the cops are at least as interested in making visual records of the events as much as in policing them as they happen. Surveillance is becoming a branch of forensics, rather than merely a mechanism for continuously monitoring situations that might require immediate intervention. Photographs and video are used as devices for the postponement of intervention. The criminal has already been caught, on screen, so there's no hurry to catch them. Whilst this increasing use of imaging technology is undoubtedly extending the cop-structure, it is also changing it. In many ways the type of policing that we are now seeing at these events and generalised through town centres and round elite areas, is the result of the old responding to the crisis of a new medium. Surveillance as forensics is the inevitable result of the information implosion on a hierarchical system. The will to control, means that the structure can't resist the chance to mainline so much data but the top-down rigidity of the cop-structure means that the parallel distributed intelligence necessary to deal with vast amounts of events happening simultaneously - the mob form - is entirely alien to it. In the co-evolution of surveillance systems and their prey technologised time is control's escape hatch. But by taking it, it becomes even more inhuman. In tightening up the logistic chain, lessening the importance of the intermediary layers of such sharecroppers in the fields of power as grasses and neighbourhood watch schemes, control may be adopting good contemporary management practice, but its organs are feeding into an overloaded and numbed centre. This can translate into people devolving responsibility to the cop-structure: when the vision of the cops is wired into every street, station platform or shopping centre promising response, why bother to intervene in a situation? The grim video images of James Bulger being dragged to his death by two other boys that were almost pointlessly recorded last year show that it is worth bothering. As the Institute of Social Disengineering point out, "To install cameras is to act, but not to act well."6 One can argue as to what extent the impact of data mining technologies on control and their consequent reconfiguration of the will to control is something exogenous or endogenous to that process - and hence how much of a crisis this causes. But, it is essential to recognise that control subjects itself to disruption even as it attempts to intensify domination - and that as a result, we should not be afraid of challenging it. Caught up in its perpetually scanned image of its switching systems, our bodies, as its actualisers domination is always subject to ransom.
It's not then, that we're not always being gorged by TV - but that in going out to 'Do Crime', we can remember: the most controlled space imaginable to all of science is that of the nuclear reactor. They leak.
Matthew Fuller 1995
1. Simon Penny, Virtual Reality as the Completion of the Enlightenment Project, in, Cultures on the Brink, Ideologies of Technology, Bender and Druckrey, eds. Bay Press, Seattle, 1994
2. Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, cybernetics and society, Free Association Books, London, 1989 3. Critical Art Ensemble, Addictionmania, in I/O/D 2, e-zine, London and Cardiff, 1995
8. Data Trash, the theory of the virtual class, Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein, New World Perspectives, Montreal, 1994 4 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, the birth of the prison, Peregrine, London, 1987
5. M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity, the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos, Penguin, London, 1994
6. Anonymous/Institute of Social Disengineering, Testcard F, Television, Mythinformation and Social Control, AK Press, Edinburgh, 1994