Travelling bodies, biometrics and borders
(University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the transformation of faces and fingers from body-parts to mobile 'body-artefacts' in biometrics, the social practices and interactions that these transformations enable and engender in a security context, as well as researchers conceptualization of these processes.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation departs in a laboratory, where researchers develop and research different kinds of biometric technologies - digital technologies employed for identification based on the body. Taking fingerprints and faces as examples, on the one hand the presentation focuses on how these body parts travel into the biometric realm. How fingers and faces are transformed from fleshy, live bodies into binary codes through minute, detail oriented and complex practices, and how these technologies and the body parts involved move across and thus compress times and spaces, are mobilized in security settings to establish 'true or false identities' and establish particular types of borders in the process. On the other hand, the presentation focuses on researchers' understanding of themselves as a form of 'body cartographers' who map new body landscapes and continuously work on minimizing the distance between body topographies and maps. What is important for the researchers in this context, is the constant creative tinkering with (new) body-parts and their characteristics, with algorithmic processes of filtering and sorting, with relations to soft-ware programs, 'hard sensors' and user bodies. In this context, the lab is configured as a playground - a site for creative exploration and creation of particular body-artefacts, but also as a site for the production of 'seamless security', which enables or hinders particular types of mobility. The presentation is based on fieldwork in two biometric laboratories and at security and biometric conferences.
Artefacts of mobility and immobility in the border world