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Surveillance Cultures

Conference "Surveillance Cultures" on July 06-07, 2017


Thursday, 06 July 2017

12:00 – 14:00 Conference Registration
14:00 – 14:15

Welcome Address

Wolfgang Hallet (Giessen)

14:15 – 15:15

Keynote Lecture

Jörn Ahrens (Giessen) The Ubiquitous View: Surveillance, Imagination, and the Power of Being Seen

Moderator: Gerlov van Engelenhoven (GCSC)

15:15 – 15:30 Coffee break
15:30 – 16:15

Case Studies I: Student Research Projects

Jana Binzer, Roman Hörner The State’s Trojan Horse                   

Jennifer Kiesewetter, Robin Schmieder Dystopian Reality? Surveillance Awareness

Ann-Kathrin Schütz Saving Your Face on Facebook

Chairs: Wolfgang Hallet, Wibke Schniedermann (GCSC)

16:15 – 18:00

Case Studies II

Annie Ring (London) New Codes of Conduct for the Subject of Surveillance

Daniela Agostinho (Copenhagen) Data Anxieties and Cloudy Images: The Aesthetics of Dataveillance

Raul Gschrey (Frankfurt, Giessen) The Art of Surveillance: Contemporary Artistic Positions in Surveillance Society

Chair: Imke Polland (GCSC)

From 18:00 Reception


Friday, 07 July 2017

09:30 – 10:30

Keynote lecture

Richard Grusin (Milwaukee) Datamediation, Citizenfour, and the Affectivity of Surveillance

Moderator: Thorn Kray (GCSC)

10:30 – 10:45 Coffee break
10:45 – 12:45 Workshop

Dietmar Kammerer (Marburg) What Is a Surveillance Culture (and How Many Are There)?

Sebastian Herrmann (Leipzig) Big Data, Algorithms, and the Cultural Work of Surveillance Panic (This workshop takes place in room B29)

Registration for both workshops is open until 23 June (email to: )!

12:45 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:30 Case Studies III

Jesse Jacovini (Giessen) Self-Surveillance and the Panopticon/Synopticon Dichotomy in the Web 2.0

Elisabeth Kovach (Giessen) Data Divulgence and the Surveillance State in Post-9/11 Fiction: The Case of Super Sad True Love Story

River Ramuglia (Ghent) Cat, Mouse, and Monster: Panic Room and the Ecology of Surveillance

Chair: Dominique Autschbach (GCSC)

15:30 – 16:00

Closing discussion


Thursday & Friday (GCSC Foyer)

artistic intervention:

Excerpts from Contemporary Closed Circuits

artist: Raul Gschrey (

All events to take place in GCSC room 001 (MFR) unless indicated otherwise.

If you require childcare for the duration of the conference, please contact before June 22, 2017.

Jörn Ahrens is professor of cultural sociology at Justus-Liebig University Giessen. He is the author of The Wire. Analysen zur Kulturdiagnostik populärer Medien (2014) His publications also include Wie aus Wildnis Gesellschaft wird. Kulturelle Selbstverständigung und populäre Kultur am Beispiel von John Fords Film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (2012) and "Der Mensch als Beute–Narrationen anthropologischer Angst im Science-Fiction-Film" (2009). Jörn Ahrens works on the link between violence, fear, and society; popular media and culture; subjectivity as well as society, nature, and technology.

Richard Grusin is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former director of the Centre for 21st Century Studies. He is the author of Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11 (2010). His long list of publications also includes Remediation: Understanding New Media (co-authored with Jay David Bolter, 1999), one of the founding works of new media studies. In his interdisciplinary research, Grusin addresses a wide range of politically and culturally relevant topics such as environmental concerns and climate change, global media networks, cybersecurity, and the targeted generation of affect through mediation.

What Is a Surveillance Culture (and How Many Are There)?

Dietmar Kammerer is assistant professor for media studies at Phillips-University Marburg. He is the author of Bilder der Überwachung (2008) and co-editor of Überwachung und Kontrolle (2015). He has published about the theory, history, and aesthetics of electronic surveillance, specifically about video surveillance and the imaginary, and about data privacy.

He will be teaching a 2-hour workshop entitled “What is a »Surveillance Culture« (and how many are there)?”


Participants of the workshop will discuss and reflect on the concepts of »privacy« as well as »surveillance culture«. The workshop aims at developing a nuanced and historically informed understanding of both concepts. In particular, we will address the following questions:

  • the historical development of concepts of »privacy«: What can we learn by studying privacy anxieties in the 19th century?
  • the varying (cultural as well as individual) understandings of what constitutes a breach or invasion of privacy: How can the differences be explained? And how can "privacy" be defended, if it is of such varying nature? Should it be defended?
  • the analytical potential of the concept of »surveillance culture«: If we want to know what surveillance is, why look at culture?


Big Data, Algorithms, and the Cultural Work of Surveillance Panic

Sebastian M. Herrmann is an assistant lecturer at American Studies Leipzig. He is the author of Presidential Unrealities: Epistemic Panic, Cultural Work, and the US Presidency, published in 2014, where he investigates how the US presidency has become a focal point for postmodern concerns about a disappearance of categories such as ‘reality’ or ‘fact.’ He has also co-edited several volumes on the politics of popular culture, among them Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture, and he is the founding head editor of aspeers, the first and currently only graduate journal for European American studies. He is currently working on the emerging data imaginary in nineteenth-century US culture.

This workshop will explore the cultural work done in discussions of surveillance as dataveillance—the large-scale gathering of data and its algorithmic mining for the purpose of understanding (and controlling) human behavior. Contemporary texts on dataveillance, for example Nicholas Carr’s The Switch or the numerous, recent articles on Cambridge Analytica and its involvement in the Brexit Vote and the US election, typically aim to educate their readers about the dangers that digitization and the ‘googleization of everything’’ (Vaidhyanathan) pose to their privacy and, by extension, to their personhood. We will work together to take a closer look at these texts’ rhetoric. Our conversation will be organized around questions such as:

  • How do these texts express their concern about the dangers of digital mass surveillance?
  • How do these texts imagine the link between a person’s identity and their data self?
  • In how far are these texts similar to or different from earlier, pre-internet texts that imagine similar threats?
  • How can we use such a comparative perspective to theorize the cultural work done by these texts?


Participation for both workshops is limited! Please register by June 23 via email to


Dr. Wibke Schniedermann

Teaching Centre Coordinator

+49 641 / 99-30 027 (Office)

+49 641 / 99-30 041 (Secr.)




Coming by air plane:

you can take the train from the Frankfurt airport train station to the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) in Frankfurt.  From there take a regional train to Giessen (s. and then a bus to the GCSC.

Find us by bus:

From Giessen railway station: bus route number 10 goes directly to Rathenaustraße (alternatively take the bus number 5 or 24 to Marktplatz  and then change to line 801 or 802 to Rathenaustraße). When you arrive at Rathenaustraße you will see the main buildings of the Philosophikum I.

Bus line number 2 in the direction of Eichendorffring stops at Graudenzer Straße

Please take a look at this map to find your way to the GCSC-building:

GCSC Karte

Here you will find the current route planner:

Or by car

If you are letting a route planner create the best route for you, or if you are using a GPS/Navigation system, simply enter the address: Alter Steinbacher Weg 38, 35394 Giessen.

Directions from the A5:

From the South:

Follow the A5 toward Kassel. Turn off the A5 at the junction Gambacher Kreuz toward Giessen and get on the A45. Turn onto the A485 toward Giessen. Get off the A485 at the junction Giessen-Schiffenberger Tal toward the university and get on Schiffenberger Weg. Stay on the Schiffenberger Weg and turn right at the Burger King onto Rathenaustraße. Follow until Alter Steinbacher Weg then turn left. Take the first left and you will be in the parking lot behind the university library. The GCSC building is now directly in front of you, and you will recognise it by its blue blinds between the windows.

From the North:

Take the A5 towards Frankfurt, Giessen. Change at the junction Reiscirchener Dreieck from the A5 to the A480 towards Dortmund, Giessen. At the Giessener Nordkreuz change to the A485 towards Giessen, Stadtmitte. Get off the A485 at the junction Giessen-Schiffenberger Tal and get onto Schiffenberger Weg. Stay on Schiffenberger Weg and turn right at the Burger King onto Rathenaustraße. Follow until Alter Steinbacher Weg then turn left. Take the first left and you will be in the parking lot behind the university library. The GCSC building is now directly in front of you, and you will recognise it by its blue blinds between the windows.