In class, when were were learning about panoptical security and their applications in dystopias, we went over Foucault’s theory of the “plague town”. This was a town where the plague was present, so everyone had to be monitored very closely so that no one would die. In this setting, the town was a model of a dystopian society. For my research on how our present technology is capable to form dystopia, I wanted more background on technology involved with surveillance. I first had to understand what the definition of surveillance was. I found a source from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, which focused on public health surveillance. “The Evolution of Surveillance” by William Halperin is a short article about the current state of health surveillance, and the capabilities that the health community wishes to have.
A brief summary
In the 1970s with the passage of Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), health was only surveilled in the country through physician reporting. Today, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and other entities, surveillance has evolved.
You’re being surveilled when you go to the doctor!
William talks about the origins of health surveillance, which began when a surveillance system design by Bill Foege eradicated the last clusters of smallpox. Today, health surveillance also involves preventing diseases rather than just controlling spread, injuries, disease hazards, interventions for preventing disease, and more. Basically, health surveillance has become more powerful.
For example, OSHA tests for blood lead on behest of physicians looking for patients. Even though there’s no present rationale behind the data collection, OSHA is still collecting the information. The health community continues to look to improve their data collection methods and strategies to make the “neurological system of public health” as vigilant as possible
At the airport in Hong Kong, you must pass health checkpoints.
Organization and Rhetorical Strategies
This article starts by talking of the origins and definition of public health surveillance. Giving the reader some background helps with understanding. It then summarizes how the surveillance has evolved over time, examples of it, and what is to come in the future. It mainly uses logos and ethos throughout the journal, as it is a health journal.
Key terms and theories, and why they are important
The key ideas that I got from this article were that surveillance is “the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health related data with the a priori purpose of preventing or controlling disease or injury, or of identifying unusual events of public health importance.”
In a dystopian society, crime, any disobedience, is considered and treated like a disease. It’s shunned, undesirable, and we try to get rid of it. When William talks about a Neurological System, he’s talking about a sort of autonomous intelligent system that manages itself. Any system, given a feedback loop, can sustain itself. Surveillance is a method for a feedback loop so the public can remain healthy. A key defining feature of a utopian or a dystopian society is that the state stays the same. Therefore, surveillance is crucial in a dystopian society, as it allows a state to remain static.
In this article, William talks about how surveillance is evolving. We collect data even if we aren’t sure of it’s rationale, but we collect it just in case the data becomes useful. He says,
“Surveillance in practice is an evolving quilt or tapestry of many methods of data collection,“
To increase surveillance, you just need to collect more data. William warns however that “collection of data without analysis or use is not surveillance.” This provoked me and made me think about what surveillance in our present society use actually surveillance, or just unnecessary extra data collection.
Halperin, William. “The Evolution of Surveillance.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 56, no. 6, June 2013, pp. 613–614. EBSCO, doi:10.1002/ajim.22193. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.