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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24306

Title: The Identity Myth: Constructing the Face in Technologies of Citizenship
Authors: Ferenbok, Joseph
Advisor: Clement, Andrew
Department: Information Studies
Keywords: Face Recognition, biometrics, identity, identification, facialization
Issue Date: 13-Apr-2010
Abstract: Over the last century, images of faces have become integral components of many institutional identification systems. A driver’s licence, a passport and often even a health care card, all usually feature prominently images representing the face of their bearer as part of the mechanism for linking real-world bodies to institutional records. Increasingly the production, distribution and inspection of these documents is becoming computer-mediated. As photo ID documents become ‘enhanced’ by computerization, the design challenges and compromises become increasingly coded in the hierarchy of gazes aimed at individual faces and their technologically mediated surrogates. In Western visual culture, representations of faces have been incorporated into identity documents since the 15th century when Renaissance portraits were first used to visually and legally establish the social and institutional positions of particular individuals. However, it was not until the 20th century that official identity documents and infrastructures began to include photographic representations of individual faces. This work explores photo ID documents within the context of “the face,”—a theoretical model for understanding relationships of power coded using representations of particular human faces as tokens of identity. “The face” is a product of mythology for linking ideas of stable identity with images of particular human beings. This thesis extends the panoptic model of the body and contributes to the understanding of changes posed by computerization to the norms of constructing institutional identity and interaction based on surrogates of faces. The exploration is guided by four key research questions: What is “the face”? How does it work? What are its origins (or mythologies)? And how is “the face” being transformed through digitization? To address these questions this thesis weaves ideas from theorists including Foucault, Deleuze and Lyon to explore the rise of “the face” as a strategy for governing, sorting, and classifying members of constituent populations. The work re-examines the techno-political value of captured faces as identity data and by tracing the cultural and techno-political genealogies tying faces to ideas of stable institutional identities this thesis demonstrates face-based identity practices are being improvised and reconfigured by computerization and why these practices are significant for understanding the changing norms of interaction between individuals and institutions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24306
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Information Program - Doctoral theses

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