Incarceration and the Infrastructures of Work and Technology
208 pp., 6 x 9 in, 16 b&w illus.
- Published: May 9, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How prisoners serve as media laborers, while the prison serves as a testing ground for new media technologies.
Prisons are not typically known for cutting-edge media technologies. Yet from photography in the nineteenth century to AI-enhanced tracking cameras today, there is a long history of prisons being used as a testing ground for technologies that are later adopted by the general public. If we recognize the prison as a central site for the development of media technologies, how might that change our understanding of both media systems and carceral systems? Prison Media foregrounds the ways in which the prison is a model space for the control and transmission of information, a place where media is produced, and a medium in its own right.
Examining the relationship between media and prison architecture, as surveillance and communication technologies are literally built into the facilities, this study also considers the ways in which prisoners themselves often do hard labor as media workers—labor that contributes in direct and indirect ways to the latest technologies developed and sold by multinational corporations like Amazon. There is a fine line between ankle monitors and Fitbits, and Prison Media helps us make sense of today's carceral society.
“Prison Media powerfully reveals how the modern penal system operates as a testbed for technology and workforce development that is deeply entangled with media and communication.”
Lisa Parks, Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies, UC Santa Barbara
“A brilliant, historically rich entry point to a completely new field, Prison Media shows how in prison, the 'normal' is prepared, defined, and managed for wider circulation, with media as its key relay.”
Nick Couldry, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science
“The prison joins such well-known sites of media innovation as the lab, the office, and the hospital. Prison Media critically convicts and elegantly retheorizes our carceral society and media as one. Quite literally, captivating.”
John Durham Peters, María Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film and Media Studies, Yale University