Creative Misuse as Resistance: Surveillance, Mobile Technologies, and Locative Games

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Jason Farman


By focusing on loctive, mobile games that utilize GPS tracking in playful ways—from games such as geocaching and GPS::Tron to artistic GPS projects like Paula Levine’s San Francisco<>Baghdad and Jeremy Wood’s GPS drawings—this paper points to two key issues for the intersection of surveillance and games. First, I argue that games can creatively misuse surveillance technologies as a form of resistance. Second, such creative misuse creates a particular embodied relationship to surveillance, what I term the “sensory-inscribed body.” Ultimately, the sensory-inscribed body, through creative misuse of locative tracking technologies, demonstrates that surveillance space is not statically inscribed with meaning; instead, the meanings emerge through practice. Playful engagement reinscribes the possible meanings, positioning the embodied player not simply as an object of surveillance but instead as a creative misuser who brings together heterogeneous elements to reconfigure spatial relationships between people and surveillance technologies.

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Author Biography

Jason Farman, University of Maryland, College Park

Jason Farman is an Assistant Professor at University of Maryland, College Park in the Department of American Studies, a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Digital Cultures and Creativity Program, and an affiliate faculty member with the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.