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<eyebeam><blast> Prelude: Sensar Inc. Sees Eyes


“Romantics view them as windows to the soul,
but engineers at Sensar Inc. see eyes in more practical terms.
To them the world’s 6 billion pairs of eyes are the ultimate ID.
England’s Nationwide bank seems to agree.”


Let me take you into the forum on a poetic stroll through the pages of a
recent Newsweek.  A column called “An Eye for an ID” (“eye-dee” as in
“identification”) announces that this month, Nationwide bank will begin
testing ATMs outfitted with Sensar’s eye-scanning technology.  Here is
what happens when you use one of these machines.  You march on up to the
ATM, glance at the screen, and your eye is immediately scanned and
matched against the bank’s database.  Identity is verified, eliminating
the need for a little bit of memory (remembering your password), a
little bit of time, a little bit of reflective space. One less plane of
mediation to get in the way.

And it is just as well, you might think, when considering how
untrustworthy representations have become, how quickly they can be
tampered with if they are not somehow secured.  Images even appear to
doubt themselves these days, and perhaps that is why they seem to want
to expand (immersion), or shrink to nothing (beam).  In the case of
direct, strategic scanning, it appears as though there is little chance
of deceit.  There is no time or space to fool the eye.  Reversing the
vector, this scan IDs you before you identify it.  It does all the
reading, in a way that is more natural (because what it sees is the
true, biological body), convenient, safe, and reliable than the naked
eye that it augments.  It is a demanding and perilous world out there,
and these technological developments, like the little surveillance
cameras installed innocuously in the corner, are here to protect you --
and your information.

And “treating your information as anything less than a matter of
national security just isn’t enough” anymore in today’s climate, as a
neighboring GTE Internetworking ad wants to make quite clear to you.  As
you and your information intertwine (this what the ATM sees), so too do
the personal and national, the interior and the exterior, the local and
the global, when the issue is Security.  “Of course we can protect your
information” the ad reads, next to an aerial photograph of the
Pentagon.  “After all, this was one of our test sites.”  Having already
developed highly secure networks for the Department of Defense and the
U.S. Treasury, GTE Internetworking combines politics, finance,
communications, and what might be called the economy of security in
order to warn you that “it’s not enough to simply connect a firewall to
your existing network.  It has to be rigorously monitored to be truly

Next page.  “The EOS System, especially the EF USM (Ultrasonic Motor)
lenses, allows me unparalleled speed and stealth for worry-free
shooting.”  Are we seeing or firing?  At what?  (One envisions something
like “safe seeing” through the videocamera mounted on a Gulf War
missile.) And if, for example, Sensar Inc. is seeing eyes -- or if
engineers are seeing eyes through technology and Sensar Inc. -- then one
never knows who is aligned at which end of the viewfinder, or which end
might be target.  Or even if there are dual ends at all in the
seeing-conduit.  The process of identification that was formerly done
with mirrors confronts that of ID-ing or being ID-ed.

Realizing that this ad is for Canon lenses, one can snap eye, image,
technology, and subject right into place with the skill of a true
marksman.  “Getting the shot of this New Guinea tribesman was a one-shot
deal,” the photographer speaking in the Canon ad continues. “The EOS
lenses always react as quickly as I have to -- with dead-on autofocus
accuracy.” The out-of-place tribesman pictured here stands gazing
dead-on at the camera, his face pigmented bright yellow and red, his
eyes soulful. “Switching to the EOS System helped change the face of my
photography,” the photographer concludes.  Which face does he mean?  The
faces overlay, frozen in a capture, when the registration marks are all
aligned.  A clash of cultures subsumed within the speed and stealth of a
heavily augmented, logistical seeing.  But something doesn’t quite
“match up.”


How are these aesthetic fields positioned, even as they mutate,
stratify, or implode?  What devices, procedures, and positions
constitute the network that informs them?  What struggles, alignments,
and incompatibilities animate it?  What tools do we use to intervene
within it?  How do we develop informed positions within these
territories that go right to the heart of the political question?

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