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Cold War LegaciesSystems, Theory, Aesthetics$
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John Beck and Ryan Bishop

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474409483

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474409483.001.0001

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The Signal-Haunted Cold War: Persistence of the SIGINT Ontology

The Signal-Haunted Cold War: Persistence of the SIGINT Ontology

(p.167) Chapter 9 The Signal-Haunted Cold War: Persistence of the SIGINT Ontology
Cold War Legacies

Jussi Parikka

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter addresses a non-linear signal archaeology that connects Cold War architectures to current politics of global surveillance. In the wake of the NSA/PRISM/Snowden revelations in June 2013, it was discovered that Britain still has a “secret listening post” in the heart of Berlin. The story about Britain’s involvement in Berlin is indicative of some continuities in the Cold War narratives that persist, and some media technological practices that never disappeared: from the Teufelsberg listening post in Berlin to the current NSA culture, we are forced to admit the significance of what Thomas Elsaesser referred to as the S/M perversion of cinematic media: the centrality of technical media in Surveillance and Military. Indeed, excavating “signal architecture archaeologies” means looking at those non-human spaces built for signals – a preparation for the war conducted over signals, or what nowadays is referred to as “cyberwar”. This theme haunts the abandoned buildings and remnants of the Cold War like Teufelsberg, which is approached poetically as a haunted signal space: the ghosts that characterise military architectures are not dead souls of humans, but the non-human pings of massive infrastructures of signal processing.

Keywords:   surveillance, media archaeology, cold war, SIGINT, Berlin, Teufelsberg, Signal processing, cyberwar

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