From Protest to Surveillance – The Political Rationality of Mobile Media Modalities of Neoliberalism

Leistert, Oliver
Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013. IX, 280 pp., 9 b/w fig., 8 tables
ISBN 978-3-631-64313-6 hb.  (Hardcover)

The book argues that the mobile as a political technology in a broad sense facilitates the global export of the Western concept of individuality. This empowers those subjectivities and mindsets which can adapt to the communication regime of ubiquitous connectivity. Exemplifying two focal points – the use in protests and the surveillance of mobile phones – the book traces political trajectories of mobile phones, just as it provides deep insights into the actual practice of mobile phone use by activists and their surveillance. 50 semi-structured interviews with activists from countries including Brazil, India, Pakistan and Mexico offer a detailed and profound discussion of mobile phone success and failures in different struggles for justice. By situating mobile phone mass dissemination within a political rationality of neoliberalism and its political technology of governmentality, it shows how sovereign rule updates to catch up with the subject’s empowerment through mobile phones. The limits of mobile phone impact on activism are examined, and how it compromises its users when new sovereign means such as data retention or silent SMS surveillance are invoked.

Contents: Mobile Media – Mobile Phones – Surveillance – Protest – Empowerment – Governmentality – Modalities of Neoliberalism – Activism – Media Studies – International Perspective – SMS – Sovereignty – Government – Social Struggles – Repression – Data Retention – Civil Society – Prepaid Mobile Phones – Secure Communication – Encryption – Grassroots movements.

Oliver Leistert, Dr. phil., has been researching media activism and surveillance for many years. His research interests include governmentality studies, media theory, digital methods, surveillance studies, social media and empirical research. Starting October 2013 he will be a Post-Doc at the DFG Research Group «Automatisms» at University Paderborn, Germany.