The Rhetoric of Secrecy & Surveillance

The Rhetoric of Secrecy & Surveillance
"Kryptos" statue at the CIA National Headquarters in Langley, VA

Welcome to the main page of "The Rhetoric of Secrecy and Surveillance!" This splash page hosts short introductions on secrecy and surveillance, each covering a specific topic or theme.

  • UMN-TC Students: After completing the primary readings, follow the link to the secondary reading, which will guide our in-class discussions.
  • Visitors: Each entry also contains links to additional, supplementary resources for further exploration and reading. When possible, full-text links have been made available to folks with a UMN id and may be made available individually by request.

Generally speaking, the content covered in this course is divided into three genres:

  • (1) the history of secrecy and surveillance
  • (2) theories of secrecy and surveillance, and
  • (3) wicked problems related to secrecy and surveillance.

The core argument of this class is that we live in public. Online and in-person, we are exposed to the world in ways we may not realize. Often, what we consider to be secret is often no secret at all.  Other times, it seems as though there is no choice but to live in public because of systems of surveillance. These kinds of forced publicity create novel social problems and rules for living. They give rise to the expectation that for something to be newsworthy, some secret must be revealed. They also encourage forms of destructive conspiratorial thinking that drive political polarization.

Below, you will find a table of contents for this class organized by keywords. Some of the entries link to an accompanying recording that supplements the entry for the day. The entries comprise the primary required reading for the class. and provides additional resources about the keyword/topic. A link to the secondary readings for the class can be found at the beginning of each keyword entry.

Index of Course Documents

Part 1: Key Terms and Definitions

Part 2: Secrecy Situations

Part 3: Reading Strategies

Part 4: Authority Figures

Film Screenings