Joana is an artist and researcher based in Barcelona. Her work critically explores the way post-capitalist narratives affect the alphabetization of machines, humans and ecosystems. Her main research topics include communication technologies and CO2 emissions, virtual civil surveillance on the Internet and language. She is a member of the Antiatlas des Frontières and co-founder of The Institute for the Advancement of Popular Automatisms.
The Virtual Watchers questions the dynamics of crowdsourcing the national security and border control through social media. The project focuses on the exchanges that occurred within a Facebook group that gathered American volunteers ready to monitor US-Mexico border through an online platform that displayed live screenings of CCTV cameras. The declared aim of this operation was to bring American citizens to participate in reducing border crime and block the entrance of illegal immigration to the US by means of crowdsourcing. This initiative, a public-private partnership, was originally launched in 2008 and consisted of a website and a network of 200 cameras and sensors located in strategic areas along the US Mexico border. Some of these cameras were also installed in the private properties of volunteering citizens. The online platform gave free access to the camera broadcasts 24/7 and allowed users to report anonymously if they noticed any suspicious activity on the border. The Virtual Watchers offers an interactive window that allows the public to access some of the original video feeds recorded by the RedServant’s surveillance cameras, and dive into the conversations, jokes, and questionings of the Facebook group that gathered some of the volunteering citizens that actively used the platform. By doing so, it highlights to what extent the emotional investment and exchanges of these people work as an essential mechanism in the construction and legitimization of a post-panoptic system.