Researching the World Around Us
Exploring the Relationship Between Technology, Environment and Politics
By Bethany Augliere and Paige Russo
It may not seem intuitive, but technology has a way of reinforcing the racism and violence it is trying to supposedly combat, according to Andrea Miller, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the school of communication and multimedia studies in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.
“I’m trying to develop a critical consciousness that allows us to think about forms of state violence in more complex ways and what it looks like in the 21st century,” Miller said. To do that, Miller examines newer technologies, such as drones and predictive policing software, which use algorithms to analyze massive amounts of information, in order to predict and help prevent potential future crimes. Despite the fact these technologies aim to reduce violence, they still enforce that violence, Miller said.
Miller recently received their doctorate in cultural studies with an emphasis in science and technology studies from the University of California, Davis. Their work is generally rooted in questions of racial justice, feminist politics and abolition.
Miller has many publications about their research through book chapters and journal articles. Their publications examine topics such as United States drone warfare, predictive policing, databasing, surveillance and more. Their forthcoming book is titled “Securing the Cyber Ecosystem: Environmental Order in the Transnational South.”
Miller came to FAU for its local history and the university’s focus on artificial intelligence and the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering. “I am very excited to be joining FAU’s diverse community and interested in many of the university’s initiatives, including the Study of the Americas initiative — particularly its focus on comparative approaches to thinking about culture, history, society and politics,” Miller said.
Here is more about Miller’s views on their research:
Q. What is your research focus?
A. My research examines the historical and contemporary relationships between technology, race, policing and empire, with an attention to how these relationships shape human-made environments — from buildings and cities to security infrastructures like nuclear reservations and cybersecurity centers. When thinking about digital technologies in my work, I situate their origins in longer histories of US war-making and empire and interrogate how these technologies travel between military, police and civilian realms.
For instance, my research and publications have examined how the use of weaponized and surveillance drones can be traced through historical uses of airpower by the military and police. While drones and autonomous systems are often thought of as the pinnacle of cutting-edge security technologies, by placing them in their historical contexts, we see how they emerge in relation to more conventional technologies such as reconnaissance balloons, airplanes or helicopters. This historical context also makes it possible to understand how state and non-state actors use technologies like drones to enforce and reproduce racial order — from the targeting of perceived terrorists in the US war on terror to the surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors and communities of color within the geopolitical borders of the United States.
Q. Why do you consider FAU the best place to carry out your research?
A. It’s important for me to root aspects of my research in the places where I live, work and think. I am very interested in how the area surrounding the FAU campus and local histories of militarization and technology might inform future research projects — from places such as the Boca Raton Army Air Field to the former IBM campus that is now the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (an office park aimed to enhance the tech industry footprint in the area).
Q. What is your upcoming book about?
A. My forthcoming book project is “Securing the Cyber Ecosystem: Environmental Order in the Transnational South.” Drawing from transnational feminist studies, critical military and police studies, and science and technology studies, I examine how the term “cyber ecosystem” gets deployed as a security concept in cybersecurity projects in the Central Savannah River Area of Georgia and South Carolina. Through my analysis of the cyber ecosystem, I address what I’m terming the transnational South, where infrastructures of global security capital converge with neo-Confederate approaches to economic and urban development through the expansion of the cybersecurity sector to reveal material and imagined relationships across the US and Global South.
Q. What are your goals as a professor at FAU?
A. First, I hope to contribute to FAU’s existing expertise in digital technologies and infrastructures through my work examining their social, cultural and political implications and contexts. I also hope that my legacy will include inspiring new undergraduate and graduate researchers to engage critically with technologies and their various applications.
As a queer first-generation student who has insisted on rooting much of my work in the places most formative for me — in Appalachia and US South— I hope to excite students about the possibilities of conducting their own research and to draw inspiration from the various places, environments and communities that shape the ways they move through and interact with the world.
Q. What are your future goals and plans you set for yourself?
A. Whether planning new research projects, future publications, teaching or engaging in community-driven projects, I seek to to embrace rather than shy away from moments of personal, political, and intellectual discomfort. And I endeavor to persistently challenge myself to always be cognizant of and accountable to the material relations, histories and contradictions that make my work and ideas possible.
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