Anne Kaun and Fredrik StiernstedtMay 13, 2023
Incarceration and the Infrastructures of Work and Technology
MIT Press 2023
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? In Prison Media: Incarceration and the Infrastructures of Work and Technology (MIT Press, 2023), Anne Kaun and Fredrik Stiernstedt foreground 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.
Jen Hoyer is Technical Services and Electronic Resources Librarian at CUNY New York City College of Technology. Jen edits for Partnership Journal and organizes with the TPS Collective. She is co-author of What Primary Sources Teach: Lessons for Every Classroom and The Social Movement Archive.