Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

14 Aug 2011, 22:42 p.m.

The Touch of a Vanished Hand

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2011 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Before going to Wikimania, I printed out a bunch of stuff: my registration confirmation email, an FAQ about the conference, a list of other colleagues who were attending, my flight itinerary, and so on. I used a binder clip to keep it together. The last time I looked at it was probably Monday, a few days before I flew back to New York.

Just now, I unearthed it from my bag as I finished the last of my unpacking. I tried to flip through it, but something was wrong. Then I realized: when searching through my belongings at the Tel Aviv airport, Israeli personnel must have taken the clip off the papers, then put it back on the right. Probably because they're used to Hebrew texts, which one reads from right to left.

There must be some academic somewhere who can help me understand, cerebrally, why the narrative of surveillance feels so much like a ghost story. They both make me feel like prey.


23 Aug 2011, 13:04 p.m.

Neat surveillance/ghost-story connection.

People whose houses have been robbed often talk about the sense of violation; that never entirely made sense to me (as someone to whom it hasn't happened), but I think I've glimpsed an extremely mild version of that feeling by opening my checked luggage at the end of a trip and finding a note from TSA telling me that they went through my stuff.

For me, it's not just the surveillance or the people seeing my stuff; it's finding out after the fact that it's already happened and I didn't know about it.

...And now I want to go off on tangents about The Transparent Society (which I'm suddenly thinking sounds like a band name, or an organization for invisible people (or ghosts!)) and an old really creepy sf story (by Sturgeon, maybe?) about a girl or young woman who learns that a man from the future is watching her in an attempt to mold her life so she'll grow up to be an appropriate bride for him. But I have to head off to work, so never mind.