Designing Security

Authored by: Cynthia Weber , Mark Lacy

The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies

Print publication date:  January  2010
Online publication date:  January  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415484374
eBook ISBN: 9780203859483
Adobe ISBN: 9781135166205


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Modernity is a condition of compulsive, and addictive, designing.

(Zygmunt Bauman) Fears and anxieties over terrorism and crime are driving the design of new products, services, systems, and architectures to protect us. These attempts at ‘designing out insecurity’ and ‘designing in protection’ (Lacy 2008) are built on the assumption that new insecurities do not simply emerge from so-called great power politics, the traditional focus of international relations, particularly realism. Rather, insecurities increasingly emerge from attacks by state and non-state actors on our critical infrastructure – railways, airports, cyberspace, financial centers, and energy supplies – to the point where the traditional distinction between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ zones and between perpetrators and victims is increasingly erased. The urbanist Paul Virilio describes this shift as the move from the geopolitical to the metro-political era (Lotringer and Virilio 2008: 209). Architectural critic Beatriz Colomina points out that this means that those objects that were designed to make our everyday lives more livable are being redeployed to take human life: ‘If 9/11 in New York revealed the cell-phone as the last vestige of domesticity, 3/11 in Madrid revealed the cell-phone as a weapon, triggering the bombs in the trains. Personal defense became public attack. Once again, the intimate relationship between domesticity and war had evolved’ (Colomina 2007: 302). With this shift in the use of everyday designs from objects that connect and comfort us into objects that carry the potential to attack us as we go about our everyday lives, we typically respond by creating new gadgets and new design solutions to protect us.

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