conference at nyu

The NYU Council for Media and Culture and the NYU Steinhardt

Department of Media, Culture, and Communication


Radars & Fences: When the Paradigm of Discipline and Control Collide

Tentative Conference Schedule
Thursday, March 6, 5:00-8:30 pm
NYU School of Law
40 Washington Square South
Vanderbilt Hall
Room 206

5:00 – 5:15 pm Welcome

  • Ted Magder, NYU Council for Media & Culture; Chair, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU Steinhardt

5:15 – 5:30 pm Conference Overview

  • Marco Deseriis, doctoral candidate, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU Steinhardt

5:30 – 8:00 pm PANEL: The Military between Transparency and Secrecy


  • James DerDerian, Professor of International Studies, Watson Institute, Brown University
  • Trevor Paglen, Artist and experimental geographer, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
  • John Sifton, Human rights attorney, Executive Director of One World Research

Invited Moderator:

  • Stephen Duncombe, NYU Council for Media & Culture; Gallatin School, NYU

8:00 – 8:30 pm Reception

Friday, March 7, 10:00-2:00 pm
NYU Kimmel Center for University Life
60 Washington Square South
Room 803
10:00 am – 1:00 pm PANEL: The Signature and the Password: Data banks and information flows


  • David Lyon, Director of the Surveillance Project, Queen’s University, Toronto
  • Ron Deibert, OpenNet Initiative, University of Toronto


  • Helen Nissenbaum, Information Law Institute; Department of Media, Culture and Communication, NYU Steinhardt

1:30 – 2:00 pm Closing Remarks & Reception

Conference Description

Radars and fences, satellites and walls, networks and bunkers. Two different sets of technologies confront us: the former are transparent, discreet, mobile, and selective; the latter are opaque, conspicuous, immobile, and non-discriminating. The former epitomize the modulating and flexible character of what Gilles Deleuze termed the “societies of control” while the latter embody the “old” disciplinary paradigm based on separation, physical mass containment, and restriction of the freedom of movement. Most of the times control and discipline coexist and reinforce each other; sometimes they seem to collide. This is due to a variety of far-reaching factors and transformations occurred within the productive sphere.

If the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of ICT seemed to foretell, if only for a while, the decline of disciplinary apparatuses, the new millennium presents us with an extremely functional “return” of dividing and enclosing technologies – from the U.S.-Mexico fence and Israel-Palestine wall to the steady growth of the U.S. prison-industrial system. In other words, besides that such a “return” may be in fact a process of constant strengthening, the Foucaultian disciplinary paradigm and the Deleuzian control societies are coming to form a mesh, where individualized immaterial control and physical mass containment of the workforce seem perfectly integrated and complementary.

However, if in authoritarian states such as China and Iran such integration of discipline and control needs little justification in ideological terms (at least on the inside), in the West such a co-existence is not frictionless. During the Cold War, the emerging rhetoric of transparency and accountability associated with control societies had primarily a propagandistic function against the opacity and closeness of real socialism. But with the rise of the network society, transparency has increasingly become a necessary and material component of open workflows, management methods, and governance. At the same time though, an excess of openness puts at risk industrial secrets, military R&D, intellectual property assets, state secrets, and political careers.

To be sure, in the control societies access to information is restricted and modulated by codes and passwords. However, a number of notable examples – from the Abu Ghraib scandal to the leaking of the Windows source code, from the unveiling of the NSA eavesdropping program to the CIA extraordinary renditions – show how hard it is for governments and CEOs to obfuscate and seclude information from public scrutiny. And yet, there are areas of public life that formidably resist the rhetoric of transparency: around the 10 per cent of the DoD budget is allocated to the so-called “black programs,” top-secret military programs whose very existence and name is unacknowledged by the government; immigrants’ detention facilities are situated in the remotest regions; and biotech research is highly protected in spite of its far-reaching consequences on the ecosystem and human life.

And yet, it is the very structure of the network society, with its decentralization of tasks and constant multiplication of electronic eyes that threatens the opacity of physical and immaterial bunkers. By looking at the grey areas where control and discipline, transparency and secrecy, democracy and the state of exception overlap and collide, Radars and Fences provide a cross-disciplinary and experimental platform whereby researchers, artists, journalists, and activists can negotiate new and critical positions.


This forum is being coordinated by doctoral candidate Marco Deseriis as part of a grant awarded by the NYU Council for Media and Culture with assistance provided by the Information Law Institute

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