Bossewitch & Sinnreich (2012) contains a useful description of information flux which is a conceptual framework for thinking about the flow of information between an individual and a network with respect to knowledge and power. The authors build on well known analyses of surveillance and the panopticon (Foucault, 2012) to provide additional blueprints or strategies of information transfer, and a method for means for generating them.

This makes it sound complicated but really it’s just a method of diagramming how information moves in a system between various parties and giving the pattern a name.



Off the Grid

Promiscuous Broadcaster

Voracious Collector

It’s interesting how power is written into these blueprints (encoded as multiple As and a singular B), particularly how less powerful parties can become powerful over time due to the information flux that is at play. They also talk about how information flux is a reductionist technique, in that it does not speak necessarily of values, which are lost when simply representing the transfers.

I thought this idea was particularly compelling and useful when considering the work I’ve been a part of with Documenting the Now, which is attempting to position research and archival practices for social media. The companies of Twitter and Facebook our powerful parties, but the archives are powerful as well when considering their interactions with the voices that are present in social media. Those same voices, collectively, also have power that they can exert. Anyway, these are just notes to remind myself later of this useful concept–and share it with you if you are interested as well.

Now that I think about it the paper reminds me quite a bit of a talk Hillel Arnold gave at SAA back in 2014 during a panel A Trickle Becomes a Flood: Agency, Ethics and Information that I participated in.

Here are some references mentioned in the article that I flagged to follow up on :

Gandy Jr, O. (2006). The new politics of surveillance and visibility, chapter Data Mining, Surveillance, and Discrimination in the Post-9/11 Environment, pages 363–384. University of Toronto Press. (On the ways in which electronic information resists deletion in its very nature).

Nippert-Eng, C. E. (2010). Islands of privacy. University of Chicago Press. (An ethnography of secret sharing – sounds like a really tough thing to do an ethnography on, so I’m super interested to read it.)

Lethem, J. (2000). The Vintage Book of Amnesia: An Anthology of Writing on the Subject of Memory Loss. Vintage. (This one seems like a good book for inspiration on the topic of memory. As my studies go on the more I’ve become interested in memory studies – so this might be a fun read.)

Clarke, A. C. and Baxter S. (2000). The Light of Other Days. Tor. (A sci-fi novel about how a technology that allows people to spy on each other via light sent through wormholes. The story explores the effects this technology has upon society.)


Bossewitch, J., & Sinnreich, A. (2012). The end of forgetting: Strategic agency beyond the panopticon. New Media & Society.

Foucault, M. (2012). Discipline & punish: The birth of the prison. Vintage.