University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Radio-Frequency identification technologies
RFID is an acronym that stands for, Radio-Frequency identification. This refers to a small devise that has a small chip and antenna. This chip can carry at most 2,000 bytes of data. This device mainly serves the same purpose as the bar code or a magnetic strip at the back of an ATM or any other credit card and provides a unique identifier for the said object. Just as the magnetic strip is always scanned to gain information, the RFID must also be scanned so as to get the saved information (Angell, I.; Kietzmann, J. 2006).
There is a significant advantage of RFID devices over the barcodes because this device does not require to be precisely positioned relative to its scanner. The RFID devices do not have to be in contact with the scanner itself as we have witnessed in many instances in the case of barcodes. One may be able to count all his/her purchases by just collecting all of them into one bag which is placed over the scanner. The scanner will read all the RFID without having to manually move these products across the scanner. For high frequency scanners it could be able to read up to 20 feets above it.
(Angell, I.; Kietzmann, J. 2006) argues that these devices are also very minute and they could be embedded in the product labels, the environment and other strategic sites so as to track the movement of the holders. They are activated by receivers and they transmit a lot of information which ranges from product information like the purchase location, manufacturer’s date and the route of delivery, the credit history of the person who is holding the card along with his/her the address. The active RFIDs are very capable of data transmission even if they have not been activated by any receiver. They could be linked with inbuilt sensors so that they can continuously monitor the conditions of the environment and the applications that are of interest to the US military and the environmental groups. The information amount that is accessible and also generated through the RFIDs is so big the it may overwhelm all the data sources that is in existence and also become from the humans viewpoint as infinite. So in a society where every individual is embedded with an RFID chipset, they will always be under a constant surveillance as it was put forward by Cloud Atlas with the resistance taking the form of a struggle to transmit the information to the present and also the future stakeholders in the globe in case of any catastrophe.
Hayles PropositionHayles (2009) argues that that the RFID issues should not be used to beat a retreat to the liberal humanism but on the other hand sees it as RFIDs are just like the human cognition that is multi layered and context aware which is capable of generating novel meanings along with interpretations just like the RFIDs. He continues his argument by adding that consciousness should not be taken just as being the only arbiter of meaning and hence gives non-human agents a room to contribute to the cognition of the humans. And in this view, the RFID technology therefore ceases to be part of the distributed cognition system which have for a very long time been extended and amplified human cognition (Hayles, 2009).
(Galloway , 2004) argues that the calm technology concept emanated from cultural and political-economic environment that reflected on the researcher’s own desire for minimalist, high technology living and aesthetically pleasing living in the work places and this does not change the fact that the seamless computing concept are so much inherent in the present day computing technologies. Also the central thing in the ubiquitous and pervasive technologies is the ability of the computer to have the capability of perceiving, interpreting and reacting to the information that has been fed into it. The information infrastructures also must be able to shift from the periphery into the centre and hence to be able to recognize and also respond to the actual context of use. The context computing will therefore rely on two types of information namely: physical location and user identity, where both require very big data acquisition and also storage and delivery mechanisms. The GPS or the Global Positioning systems are now familiar locations awareness technology. Galloway being a sociologist is always very keen to make it clear that the technologists always work on bridging the sociology into the Ubiquitous computing framework and sees it as a very good idea that collaboration between the sociologists who are concerned on how people lead their lives on a day to day basis and the innovators of technology is something that needs to be encouraged (Galloway, 2004). He is keen to put it that the use of RFID technology could be very useful to the supply chain but on the other hand it can be used to collate and gather information behind the scenes from some of the desperate sources. The Data matching that comes with these technologies, along with personal identification and the information from locating sensing abilities; once they are combined they could pose a very big problem to the citizen’s ability to act in the world. This concept of a utopian or dystopian future which is created by these technologies comes from a technological determinist view that the society is shaped by technologies. But (Hayles, 2009) on the other hand was trying to show that the distributed cognition model that could be identified as ubiquitous computing could change the environment to pave way for a utopian or dystopian world is not just a new development that has cropped up but something that has existed for long.
I think the epistemological or the ontological distinction could be of a great use in this context. Hayles (2009) points out that the epistemological question is where we could and should discuss the privacy issues as it gets the same sort of things in the data or information distinction, which is that something very fundamental than disclosure of the data could be at stake. My thinking in the way that Hayles (2009) formulates the question as one that changes the way that we think of human subjectivity could be basically useful; which is the general direction as she indicates.
On this point, I would like to notice one part of the argument; the RFID tags on what she portrays exist as both virtual presences and devices negotiating the boundary through the transmission of data from the things world to the information world. In my argument, they are just active participants in what could be seen like informatics of subjectivity, taking subjectivity as the primary informatics as being the product of or by constituted by the information.
(Gordon Hull, 2014)One thing that is worth noting about this is that the formula here is directly bio-political, as far as subjectivity is neither Cartesian (being generated and also guaranteed by something which is besides the material world interactions) nor is it Juridical (in a sense that Locke applies in Essay 11.27 in opposition to Rene Descartes and in which Foucault means the term) but just an emergent product of the interactions of the environment and the humans. The informatics of subjectivity brings into account general biological information in bio-politics understanding.
The next implication of this formulation gives one the freedom to address the question of resistance and also how we should work to ensure that the RFID technology will form a part of a better world but not lead the worsening of it. As she put forward, resistance in the etiological register is so much understood even though not all that effective with the ontological things being more difficult. “Epistemological issues lend themselves to strategy and tactics (from sophisticated counter-surveillance techniques to brute force methods like smashing RFID tags with a hammer or frying them in a microwave), but how do we understand the ontological effects of animate environments” (49-50). The reading from Philip K. Dick’s Ubik (1969) stresses that capitalism on itself could not be the only trusted to come up with salutary results (65) and she also closes the argument by saying that, “The idea that meaning and interpretation can occur across and between human and mechanical phyla contributes to an expanded sense of ethics necessary when the contexts for human actions are defined by information-intensive environments and include relational and context-aware technologies such as RFID” (69).
To me, it seems as far as RFID tags settle the boundary between the informatics and the objects and the transition in between those, they should be seen as sites for the primitive capital accumulation. This is to mean that they are places where the objects becomes subsumed into the capitalist structures of the market as they are dispossessed of whatever the value they might had before. So when RFID technologies contribute to this process as for instance when they are utilized in generating revenues in case of metadata processing for the huge corporations through consumer purchases tracking is the time that they should be carefully scrutinized, with their political and economical subject to the highly careful critique, specifically as it is at this moment that they make up us as the subjects of global capital, and or where the resistance of the constitution is needed or called for (Gordon Hull, 2014).
Gordon Hull, (2014). RFID Tags, Informatized Subjects and Biopolitics. A group blog with people from all over the map. HYPERLINK “http://www.newappsblog.com/” New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science.11 September 2014
Galloway, Anne. ‘Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City’, Cultural Studies, vol. 18, nos. 2/3, 2004
Hayles, Katherine, N. ‘RFID: Human Agency and meaning in Information-Intensive Environments’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 26, nos. 2/3, 2009.
Angell, I., Kietzmann, J. (2006). “RFID and the end of cash?”. Communications of the ACM 49 (12): 90–96. doi:10.1145/1183236.1183237. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
Philip Dick Ubik (1969). One of Time’s. Mariner book. Library of congress cataloging in publication data