UAE and ‘Assemblage’: A Reflection

Conference: The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2021)
Title: UAE and ‘Assemblage’: A Reflection
Stream: Communication Theory and Methodology
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Mario Rodriguez, American University in the Emirates, United Arab Emirates


Haggerty and Ericson described the "surveillant assemblage": a post-Orwellian, post-Panoptic model of surveillance that posits a transnational system of various technologies—some hardware, some governmental—that can be accessed by institutions and government at will to follow up on subjects. Haggerty and Ericson first referred to human "data doubles" that are deconstructed into transnational data flows, decorporealized and virtual, by the surveillant assemblage. Thus, contemporary social media users are stalked by "shadow identities," "digital doubles," "digital doppelgängers," etc. Beyond the more recent deployment of "digital self" as a buzz term for "big data" that supports the idea that surplus information production generates more economic profit, how does the "surveillant assemblage" emerge within specific contexts? In this paper, we present a case study of "surveillant assemblage" in the UAE, an emerging power from the MENA region with global aspirations. We conduct a meta-analysis of communication literature to answer the question of how the "surveillant assemblage" has been applied to emergent technologies and control society in the UAE (e.g., Blackberries, biometrics, museums, drones, the ‘Smart City,’ airports, etc.). In this way, the study describes a culturally specific outcropping of "surveillant assemblage" within the Gulf States. In conclusion, and as a corollary to exploring "surveillant assemblage" in this context, what is the resultant picture of a "digital self" of UAE citizens? Inextricably connected to the emergence of "surveillant assemblage" is the idea of citizens as digital entities with a double-life. How can we balance a more equitable, resilient UAE society with security concerns?

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