Security Moms and Smart Homes: Information Technology and Domestic Surveillance in the "Age of Terrorism"

Dr. Alice Crawford
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This paper examines the fantasy of the "smart home" as it functions within the context of the current preoccupation with national and personal security in the so-called "Age of Terrorism." Both the "smart home" and the "Security Mom" have become emblematic of a privatized, technology-centered response to collective anxieties. Certainly, Donna Haraway was right in insisting that a technology's paternity does not necessarily determine its ultimate uses. However, it is wise to remember the provenance of the information technologies which increasingly shape our domestic utopias. The military was and is the most powerful engine of IT research and development. The focus on control and security inherent in military applications, along with the emphasis on privatization that guides corporate IT development for the consumer market, intertwine to form a troubling genealogy for the "smart home." The eager acceptance of surveillance technology and tracking systems in the "smart home" as it is currently imagined in both popular media and consumer electronics advertising, puts the finishing touches on the inward-facing orientation of the electronic cottage which becomes, as the biometrics and web cameras and infrared sensors add up, an electronic fortress. "Secured" inside, watching the news and consuming the sensationalized violence of the commercial media, it seems likely the "smart home" might well function to create a feedback loop of paranoia about terrorism and crime, resulting in the development of more applications for protecting the nuclear family in its wired citadel. This utterly private response to a perceived breakdown in public safety looks to IT, rather than public, collective efforts, to ensure the safety of citizens, and has spawned an enormous industry of home security products that can be integrated into "e-living" systems. This paper argues that paranoia about public space as promoted by commercial media and by the PR for IT-enabled home security arrays helps foster a desire to focus on the private domain at the expense of the public sphere.

Keywords: Surveillance, Information Technology, Security, Gender, Community, Terrorism, Smart Home, Family
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Security Moms and Smart Homes

Dr. Alice Crawford

Visiting Assistant Professor, Women's Studies Program, University of Pittsburgh

Ref: T05P0174