My colleague Robert Gehl and I have just completed a paper that we will present at the Cyber-Surveillance in Everyday Life workshop at the University of Toronto in May. In it, we explore three case studies of what we are calling “convergence security.” These include cases of volunteer, online counterterrorists, cybersecurity intelligence analysts, and cyber-Minutemen border watchers. These are cases of self-organized, online volunteers who undertake activities that they believe are vital to ensuring national security. Often, the volunteers are motivated by a sense of frustration with authorities, a feeling that the government either cannot or will not do the work that the volunteers have taken it upon themselves to do. In each case, we see an uneasy blurring of the boundary between traditional “producers” and “consumers” of security. The introduction to the paper is pasted below. The full paper can be read here: [PDF].


Since the end of the Cold War, several observers have noted the “widening” of the notion of security in Western nations (Buzan et. al 1998; Hardt & Negri 2004). In the face of a seemingly ever-expanding list of potential threats and vulnerabilities, the boundaries between internal and external security blur, the functions of military, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations overlap, and almost every aspect of daily life is subject to securitization (Bigo 2002). As the potential subjects and objects of threats to security have proliferated, so too have the potential arenas of conflict. Cyberspace has emerged as one of those arenas. It is not only a tool, terrain, and target of conflict for state actors, but also for non-state actors working on behalf of the state or for their own ends, thus illustrating the blurring of the boundary between traditional producers and “consumers” of security.

In this paper, we examine cases of self-organized, online volunteers in the United States that are devoted to countering what Deibert and Rohozinski (2010b) have identified as threats through or to cyberspace. These groups monitor and counter terrorist activities on the Internet, investigate and prevent cyberattacks, or patrol U.S. borders from the vantage point of cyberspace. Drawing from Hardt and Negri’s description of the “global state of war,” as well as the work of media studies scholars who have described the emergence of “convergence culture” and the “prosumer” as central to the “new economy,” our paper posits the emergence of “convergence security.” Just as new media technologies have been at the heart of the blurring boundaries between traditional producers and consumers of media products, so too are they at the heart of the blurring boundaries between the traditional producers and consumers of security. Cyber-surveillance has emerged as a key avenue for citizen participation in the regime of seemingly ubiquitous surveillance that is at the heart of the production of security in Western societies. In the cases examined here, we see the emergence of an often uneasy relationship between the traditional and new producers of security that is fraught with ambivalence, ambiguity, and danger. [MORE]

References (introduction only)

Bigo D (2002) Security and Immigration: Toward a Critique of the Governmentality of Unease. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 27(1): 63-92.
Buzan B, Wæver O, Wilde Jd (1998) Security : A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Pub.
Deibert R, Rohozinski R (2010b) Risking Security: Policies and Paradoxes of Cyberspace Security. International Political Sociology 4: 15-32.

Full citation: Lawson, Sean & Gehl, Robert W. (2011) “Convergence Security: Cyber-Surveillance and the Biopolitical Production of Security.” Presented at Cyber-Surveillance in Everyday Life: An International Workshop. University of Toronto. 13-15 May.