Operation Mosaic: The Impact of Visual and Linguistic Representation on Intelligence Practices
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Operation Mosaic: The Impact of Visual and Linguistic Representation on Intelligence Practices is a comparative analysis of intelligence analysts and surveillance artists that applies the method of counterinduction to examine the impact of metaphorical and linguistic representation on the conceptions and practices of intelligence analysis. Because intelligence analysts use visual metaphors in their daily practices, critiques of representation facilitate a productive approach to understanding intelligence practices. Applying theoretical constructs from several humanities disciplines—including visual studies, software studies, philosophy, and science, technology and society (STS)—to the media produced by intelligence agencies and surveillance artists, this thesis is both mixed-method and practice-based. The practice-based component of this dissertation is an artistic research project, the Crowd-Sourced Intelligence Agency (CSIA), which facilitates an experiential understanding of open source intelligence (OSINT) gathering and processing, including the use of machine-learning in predictive policing. The written component is divided into two parts: the first half analyzes the discourse of intelligence analysts focusing on the use of the mosaic metaphor that justifies secrecy and validating mass arrests, mass surveillance and indefinite detention. The second half examines alternatives presented by artists investigating the surveillance state. Through an in-depth analysis of intelligence agency documents, I demonstrate that key definitions and technical metaphors can reveal the ontological and epistemological assumptions that intelligence analysts have about their methods and technologies. Through in-depth interviews with seven contemporary post-Snowden surveillance artists—Ben Grosser, N. Adriana Knouf, Simon Farid, Derek Curry, Grayson Earle, Mark Shepard, and Trevor Paglen—I examine how they represent the surveillance state differently, constructing counter-narratives through their artistic projects, alternative theories and metaphors, which account for complexities, multiplicities, ambiguities, aesthetics, and politics—dimensions that are largely absent from intelligence community accounts.