CITP Seminar: Electronic Ankle Monitors and the Politics of Criminal Justice Technology
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This talk examines why electronic ankle monitors look and feel the way they do. The form factor of a digital monitoring technology is often overlooked, as we tend to focus on its data collection and analysis capabilities. The research presented in this talk specifically considers how the size, shape, and appearance of computing hardware contributes to its social consequences for ankle monitor wearers. Based on 85 semi-structured interviews and multi-sited fieldwork, this study traces the social and cultural dynamics that animate the design and deployment of this technology in criminal justice contexts. This research shows how ankle monitor developer communities, government agencies, and law enforcement communities throughout the United States work to normalize the social harms of ankle monitors, contribute to the continued expansion of ankle monitor deployment, and perpetuate old and new forms of social stigma.
As a response to this normalization, we will look at everyday practices of technology modification, adaptation, and resistance among people required to wear ankle monitors, with a focus on online communities and social media, in order to understand how wearers contest this stigmatizing technology and critique state and institutional use of these devices. The case study of electronic ankle monitors evidences the need to develop laws and policies that address the visual properties of digital tools as well as the data they generate. The talk concludes by discussing the broader relevance and significance of this study’s findings for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers involved in the design and deployment of computing technology across varied contexts.
Bio: Lauren Kilgour is currently a postdoctoral research associate at CITP. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in information science from Cornell University. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. Kilgour studies relationships among information technology, law, and society with a focus on investigating the social harms of data and technology and their roles in perpetuating stigma, shame, and social control. Her work employs qualitative research methods and builds upon literature from fields such as, sociology, science and technology studies, history, media studies, information science, law, and policy.
Kilgour’s current book project is a critical study of electronic ankle monitors. Designed as an alternative to imprisonment, ankle monitors are both wearable networked technologies and part of complex, criminal justice and law enforcement data service ecosystems. In this work, she critically explores how ankle monitors operate as carceral technologies and demonstrates how prejudicial notions of social difference are designed into ankle monitor hardware, software, and maintenance.
Kilgour’s core postdoctoral research project expands her study of criminal justice technologies to focus on police body cameras. Specifically, she is investigating the mixed record of success of body cameras for holding police officers accountable for their actions, particularly related to their use of deadly force and complying with wider codes of conduct. Through examining the design and use of police body cameras, and their footage, as socio-legal media artifacts, she seeks to shed light on the limitations of these devices as technologies of accountability. More broadly, she is engaged in ongoing research projects examining histories and futures of surveillance technology, practices, and cultures and their impacts; uneven access to privacy; embodied artificial intelligence and machine learning; and the roles law and policy play in constructing personhood, social categories.
Kilgour’s research has been supported by a range of internal, external, and international funding bodies and academic organizations including, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Cornell University, Technische Universität Berlin (TU-Berlin), the University of Toronto, and the University of Pittsburgh. Her research is published in international, peer-review venues such as The Information Society, Elder Law Journal, Records Management Journal, and public venues such as MIT Technology Review, and The New York Times.
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This seminar will not be recorded.