Cyborgs and Surveillance in the Digital Age: Globalization and Technologies of (In)Justice

Nancy A. Wonders, Northern Arizona University

Globalization is often historically located within the technological revolution of the digital age (Rifkin, 2000). The rise of new computer technologies, the Internet, and virtual business transactions, has clearly facilitated globalization as a historic transformation. This paper examines the implications of the digital age for criminologists. It addresses three key changes that have broad implications for criminological theory and practice. First, the paper discusses the changing character of the individual in the digital age, particularly the shift from the concept of the geographically situated "citizen," (a concept which has played a key role in the development of Western law and jurisprudence), to the concept of the "cyborg". Drawing on the work of cyberfeminists and others (Hawthorne and Klein, 1999; Kolko, Nakamura and rodman, 2000), the paper examines the challenges virtual identities pose for criminological theory, rights discourses and the administration of justice in the contemporary period. Second, the paper explores how globalized technologies in the digital age are reforging the character of inequality. Many have argued that this is the age of access, with Internet technologies permeating the lives of a growing number of the world's citizens (Rifkin, 2000). However, the growing international dependence on the Internet is just as rapidly creating a digital divide that reflects and reinforces many existing inequalities of race, class and gender. These inequalities are likely to create new injustices as citizens are increasingly urged (and sometimes forced) to rely on e-government anbd e-commerce to negotiate everyday life, from paying traffic tickets to voting. Finally, the paper explores how technological change is challenging traditional conceptions of privacy and security. As public space becomes saturated with cameras, scanners, and electronic identification devices, it is clear that some citizens will be able to afford more privacy and freedom than others. Freedom and privacy are being redefined in ways that will profoundly impact how we conceive of and administer justice. Although many of these new technologies have, ironically, been developed and distributed as stragegies to keep citizens safe, this paper explores the very real risk and dangers they pose for all of us.

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Updated 05/20/2006