Vital Mobilizations: Care and Surveillance in the Age of Global Connectivity: Workshop | Paris, 1 & 2 June 2015

Vital Mobilizations: Care and Surveillance in the Age of Global Connectivity: Workshop | Paris, 1 & 2 June 2015

Free event – Programme and Registration on the event blog:


On every front, life is being put into motion: fostered and protected against, accelerated and contained, augmented and flattened, contested and debated. It is being measured, predicted, connected and communicated by the most variegated actors with the most varied aims. Life has become the object of continuous care and surveillance. Life, then, is being mobilized. This workshop aims to explore how global connectivity contributes to mobilize life, namely to its generalized availableness as well as to the spontaneity and ubiquity of its contestations. It intends to examine how life is being generated and accounted for, put in danger and saved, disseminated and ordered in a world marked by increased interconnectivity and precariousness. Specifically, the workshop will pay attention to the concrete infrastructures, technologies, and rationalities contributing to the design of spaces of care and surveillance. Hence, in contrast with the widespread conception of a seamless worldwide circulation of knowledge, data and expertise, our aim would be to detail the embeddedness, plasticity and sheer materiality inherent to vital mobilizations.

Vital Warfare

Mobilization is a category of a world of wars (Sloterdijk, 1988). It refers to states of unrestricted, unbounded, warfare (Liang and Xiangsui, 2002). Warfare comes with its territories, its enemies, its heroes, its victims and its excesses. Warfare delineates friends and foes and comes with heightened vigilance, but also with guerilla tactics, and armed resistance. In this workshop we are interested in what figurations of warfare are mobilizing life in an age of global connectivity, while providing insight into contemporary movements of insurgency and counter-insurgency. The following questions could be addressed:

– How is warfare generating new friends and foes in times of circulating diseases, infected travelers, ‘detached’ experts and transnational corporations controlling knowledge and markets?

– What new militants/combatants are mobilized, for instance, in health movements waging war against big pharma, or in the work of biohackers, online patient communities and other forms of ‘open and citizen science’?

– What ‘boundary tracing’, mechanisms of exclusion, and ‘labors of division’ are implied in contemporary practices of care and surveillance?

Digital Mobilizations

The digitalization of life transforms the way we inhabit our world(s). Communication flows, numerical models, and computational algorithms generate new forms of presence, new ways to project ourselves into time and space. In other words, emergent forms of life. Implications are both ethical and political. On the one hand, they have to do with everyday experiences of connectivity, for instance with our relation to ourselves, to our bodies and to our health and illness. On the other hand, the digitalization of life participates in movements of openness and enclosure, of inclusion and exclusion, of mediation and protest. It contributes to shaping the government of threat and care (Feldman and Ticktin 2010). The following questions could be addressed:

– How is digital connectivity reordering biological substance and the materiality of life?

– How are processes of regulation, stabilization and securitization taking shape out of endless, chaotic flows of data and information?

– How does digitalization challenge traditional forms of power over life and what new forms of governance and resistance might emerge as a consequence?

Sensing Danger

Digital connectivity has become highly correlated with a form of protection against health-related risk, uncertainty, and danger. From seasonal flu to Ebola virus outbreak, from global warming monitoring to earthquakes and tsunamis, the last few years have for instance witnessed a significant rise in the use of ‘sentinel devices.’ That is, detection devices whose vigilant watchfulness and sensing of danger ‘can aid in preparation for an uncertain, but potentially catastrophic future’ (Keck and Lakoff 2013: 2). However, these devices do not merely predict potential catastrophic events. In fact, they actively mobilize this potentiality to shape the present, for instance structuring what qualifies as possible/valuable data and as protective behaviours. The following questions could be addressed:

– How do information systems contribute in reorienting the priorities in global health?

– How do contemporary modes of danger sensing relate to concurrent forms of relation to the future (anticipation, divination, prediction, prophecy, etc.)?

– What kinds of responses are being devised in the light of these constructions of danger and how they might be contributing to producing particular forms of life instead of others?

Dr Tony D Sampson
Reader in Digital Culture and Communications
School of Arts and Digital Industries

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