“Infrastructural Obfuscation: Unpacking the Carceral Logics of the Ring Surveillant Assemblage.” Information, Communication & Society, 2021.

Lauren Bridges

Amazon’s Ring relies on infrastructural obfuscation to hide their infrastructures through urban camouflage (as doorbells, floodlights, sensors) while simultaneously expanding the carceral state and extending the industrial police-surveillant state. Through a critical analysis of the Ring surveillant assemblage, this paper reveals the way Ring and its associated apps produce fear and paranoia of the racialized Other, promote community buy-in that more surveillance will improve safety, while obscuring private partnerships with local law enforcement. I argue Ring cannot be viewed in isolation from its entangled corporate owner, Amazon, which relies on an ever-expanding infrastructural network, including surveillance of their highly prized package delivery service. Ring is more than individual community members installing doorbells with cameras that extend beyond their property into public space; it is the blurring of boundaries between police work and civilian surveillance, the reliance on obscured digital infrastructures that hide to whom and what users are connecting when they install a Ring device, and the expansion of Amazon’s vast infrastructural power. By recentering critique on the infrastructural backbone, made up of discourses and fixtures, this paper argues for the need for infrastructural accountability from companies such as Amazon, who not only profit from fear, but actively reproduce structural violence through their data infrastructures.