The Prison House of the Circuit

Politics of Control from Analog to Digital

2022
Authors:

Jeremy Packer, Paula Nuñez de Villavicencio, Alexander Monea, Kathleen Oswald, Kate Maddalena, and Joshua Reeves

Has society ceded its self-governance to technogovernance?

Through the conceptual vocabulary of the circuit, The Prison House of the Circuit presents a history of digital media as well as a provocative model for thinking about governance and media. The authors ultimately demonstrate how contemporary media came to be mechanisms that create frictionless circulation to maximize control, efficacy, and state power.

Alive to historical detail and punctuated by field-shifting provocations, this stunning book enlists media genealogy to excavate the science of signals trafficking through systems of command and control. The authors triage the pulse of electronic circuitry spanning the planet, hardwiring populations and perception into real time biotechnical conduits of power.

Ned Rossiter, author of Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares

The Prison House of the Circuit presents a history of digital media using circuits and circuitry to understand how power operates in the contemporary era. Through the conceptual vocabulary of the circuit, it offers a provocative model for thinking about governance and media.

The authors, writing as a collective, provide a model for collective research and a genealogical framework that interrogates the rise of digital society through the lens of Foucault’s ideas of governance, circulation, and power. The book includes five in-depth case studies investigating the transition from analog media to electronic and digital forms: military telegraphy and human–machine incorporation, the establishment of national electronic biopolitical governance in World War I, media as the means of extending spatial and temporal policing, automobility as the mechanism uniting mobility and media, and visual augmentation from Middle Ages spectacles to digital heads-up displays. The Prison House of the Circuit ultimately demonstrates how contemporary media came to create frictionless circulation to maximize control, efficacy, and state power.

Jeremy Packer is professor in the Institute for Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Paula Nuñez de Villavicencio is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.

Alexander Monea is assistant professor of English and cultural studies at George Mason University.

Kathleen Oswald is adjunct faculty in the Department of Communication at Villanova University.

Kate Maddalena is assistant professor in the Institute for Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Joshua Reeves is associate professor in the School of Communication at Oregon State University.

Alive to historical detail and punctuated by field-shifting provocations, this stunning book enlists media genealogy to excavate the science of signals trafficking through systems of command and control. The authors triage the pulse of electronic circuitry spanning the planet, hardwiring populations and perception into real time biotechnical conduits of power.

Ned Rossiter, author of Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares

Contents

Preface: About the Writing of This Book

An Introduction to the Circuit: Four Chairs, Four Problems

1. How to Make a Soldier into a Medium: Docile Bodies in the Signaling Circuit

2. Soldiers in the Circuit: Media and Medicine in the First World War

3. Police Circuits: Render Automatic All the Mechanisms of Society

4. Circuitous Maximus: Automobility, Flow, and Driverless Futures

5. How We All Were Committed: Automating Medial Madness from Eyeglasses to Google Glass

6. Media Genealogical Method

Notes

Index