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Title: The hidden geography of transnational surveillance : social and technological networks around signals intelligence sites
Author: Wood, David
ISNI:       0000 0001 3571 831X
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis investigates the hidden geography of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) sites, state military bases concerned with the interception, interpretation and communication of information transmitted through technological systems. Focusing on three such sites in North Yorkshire, Fylingdales, Irton Moor, and primarily, Menwith Hill, it examines their histories and functions, and the discourses of different actors and interest groups about these processes and places. The histories, functions and discursive constructions of SIGINT sites are examined using a theoretical framework of surveillance theory, an emerging transdisciplinary field which understands that surveillance, the monitoring and control of actors, is as important to the analysis of contemporary societies as production. The thesis analyses the sites as part of a hidden geography of transnational surveillance and ultimately weaponry. This geography encompasses not only the places themselves, but also socio-technological networks that stretch across land, air, sea, outer space, and the virtual realm. The thesis is an attempt to trace some of this hidden geography, to assign it history and social meaning, and to subject it to critical interpretation. The thesis adopts a semiotic discourse analysis methodology informed by Actor-Network Theory to analyse the data gathered. The concept of discourse, the whole array of ways in which actors describe themselves, others and the world around them, is central to the way in which the thesis examines the evidence relating to SIGINT sites. This evidence includes officially generated and unofficial written documents, academic and non-academic analysis, visual representations, and interviews with key actors. Because these networks of sites are hidden, it does not mean that they cannot be made visible and their presence in the landscape and in society contested. The semiotic structure of the sites has come under attack from actors who derive meanings from their viewing of these places that are at odds with official state discourse, wherein the necessity of surveillance and secret intelligence are bound up with the foundations of the state and with inter-state relationships. This thesis will examine the whole spectrum of rejection: civil rights and privacy campaigners, peace activists, politicians and parapoliticians, Ufologists and conspiracists. These counter-discourses challenge official discourses in different ways, with differing intensities, and with varied outcomes, from failure to appropriation by the state to success in adjusting or supplanting official discourses and practices. The thesis raises questions about the development of the contemporary capitalist state and its relationship to its people and to other states and peoples. Drawing on recent adaptations of complexity theory to the social sciences, and the work of Foucault, Lyon and Chomsky, the trajectory of societies is considered to be strongly influenced by a dynamic tension between the tendency towards panopticism, a total surveillance society, and opposing tendencies towards individual and collective liberation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Military; Panopticism; Society