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CFP – Biometrics: Mediating Bodies

Special issue #60 of PUBLIC: Art/Culture/Ideas Publication Fall 2019 Biometrics refers to the way that bodies are measured and identified. It uses the logic of calculation to reduce the identity of a body to a set of data. In her work on facial recognition, Kelly Gates (2011) reminds us that biometric identification is a way of addressing the “problem of ‘disembodied identities,’ or the existence of visual and textual representations of individuals that circulate independent of their physical bodies,” a situation that has been particularly exacerbated with the rise of media technologies since the nineteenth century. This issue of PUBLIC works to understand the many ways that biometrics reinserts the body into mediated communication. Signatures are one pre-digital example of the ways that we have extracted something produced by the body as a form of authoritative representation. Today, features of the body itself—such as the face, heartbeat, gait, fingerprint, DNA, voice—are used not only by humans to recognize each other, but also as a way to program computers, machines and electronic systems to read bodies …