Thesis ID: CBB424744424

Designed to Shame: Electronic Ankle Monitors and the Politics of Carceral Technology (2021)


Lauren Kilgour (Author)
Levy, Karen E. C. (Advisor)

Cornell University
Levy, Karen E. C.
Publication date: 2021
Language: English

Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 254

My dissertation, Designed to Shame: Electronic Ankle Monitors and the Politics of Carceral Technologies, examines the ways that the design and use of electronic ankle monitors perpetuate and extend the punitive values of the US criminal justice system. Digital “alternatives to incarceration,” like ankle monitors, purport to be innovative and humanizing tools that alleviate mass imprisonment and allow for reintegration into society. My research looks at how the hardware and software design choices behind electronic ankle monitor development work to undercut the otherwise humanizing aims of such devices. In Chapter Two (“The Ethics of Aesthetics”), I share my examination of ankle monitors’ “form factor” (the physical size and shape of ankle monitor computing hardware) and how it has come to mark wearers as justice-involved in the eyes of community members. In Chapter Three (“Make it Work”), I share empirical observations and analyses from 85 semi-structured interviews, along with multi-sited fieldwork observations at corrections conventions and industry offices. I describe the range of articulation work that actors in communities spanning design and vending firms and criminal justice units and departments engage in to make the technology usable according to their needs. In Chapter Four (“Calling Out Creep”), I describe cultures and process of ankle monitor adoption and use and argue for recognizing this history of adoption as layered instances of “surveillance creep” — a term for when surveillance systems assume uses for which they were not initially intended. Drawing on this history, I describe four central characteristics and conditions of surveillance creep and advocate that the ability to identify characteristics of creep is crucial to fomenting efforts to address, stall, and stop creep. Finally, in Chapter Five (“Bedazzle, Inscribe, Flaunt”) I describe the cultures of resistance that circulate in response to electronic ankle monitor design and use. I found that wearers engage in forms of visual, aesthetic resistance that seek to shape and alter public perceptions of the technology’s symbolic meaning, without disrupting monitors’ technological operation. I spotlight how ankle monitor wearers use media to change the narrative meaning of the monitor from stigma to empowerment, and to critique state and institutional use of these devices. Overall, my dissertation research seeks to understand the broader social consequences of using electronic ankle monitors to augment community-based supervision, and whether the design of such technologies meet the social and policy objectives driving their creation and adoption.

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Authors & Contributors
Ceruzzi, Paul E.
Devonis, David C.
Durant, Darrin
Gibson, B. E.
Graham, Thomas
Hansen, Keith A.
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Science as Culture
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Ethics, Place and Environment
History of Psychology
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
New York, City University of
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
New York University Press
Oxford University Press
Rice University
Technology and ethics
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Menninger, Karl
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
19th century
United States
Great Britain
Soviet Union
California (U.S.)
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
Amazon (Firm)

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