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2017 STS Making and Doing Program

Meeting Home | Making & Doing Main | Making and Doing 2017 | Category: Policy STS Infrastructures

Snowden Surveillance Archive

Clement, Andrew, University of Toronto

The Snowden Surveillance Archive project seeks to stimulate and facilitate an informed public debate about the nature and significance of the mass state surveillance conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its Five Eyes partners (UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The principal means for pursuing this objective is the development and promotion of a widely accessible and searchable collection of all the documents that Edward Snowden disclosed to journalists in 2013 that have subsequently been published by established media. The Archive was designed and built by professional archivists to provide a finding aid to enable academic, legal, journalistic or lay researchers to readily locate and study Snowden documents as well as related media reporting.

The Archive exists in two formats: a standard web-accessible version ( and a portable off-the-net version referred to as the Snowden Archive in a Box (SAIB). It is this latter format that will be the main focus of the Making and Doing exhibit. The SAIB is a stand-alone wifi network and web server designed to provide end-users with a secure off-line method for using this Snowden Archive without the risk of mass surveillance. Anyone within range of its wifi signal (SSID: SnowdenArchive) can access the Archive with their phone/tablet/laptop by connecting to this network and then pointing their browser to; The SAIB is based on the RaspberryPi (RPi) micro-computer running the opensource Raspbian operating system. SAIB is built in two configurations:

1) The basic set-up consists of just the RPi box (about the size of a pack of cards).

2) The enhanced version also serves as a surveillance demonstration apparatus, including ‘packet-sniffing’ software for monitoring wifi traffic in the vicinity and a screen for playing the intercepted data publicly in real-time.

This vividly illustrates the information that the NSA would intercept from anyone using the web version of the Archive, or any other internet service. This Making and Doing exhibit will highlight several aspects of the Snowden Archive project that are pertinent to scholarship generally and STS issues in particular:

  • The Archive provides a unique resource for research into and teaching about the technopolitics of contemporary mass state surveillance and internet infrastructure. In particular, the SAIB configuration enables scholars to investigate this controversial document collection without drawing the attention of security agencies to their specific activities. In a teaching context, instructors can introduce their students to these documents without the risk of putting them under suspicion.
  • As a complement to this documentary resource for research, the various specific technical configurations of the Archive reflexively provide insight into critical aspects of communications and surveillance infrastructures. Most obvious are the varied specific materialities of where, how and by whom internet surveillance can be conducted.
  • Publicly exhibiting the formerly secret documents that reveal evidence of illegal and unconstitutional behaviour by state agencies represents an act of solidarity (albeit a modest one) with Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers who at considerable personal cost have made significant contributions to our knowledge of important threats to democratic rights. It also constructively asserts academic freedoms that all independent scholarship ultimately depends on at a time when these are under evidently growing threat. In addition to helping attendees better understand the Snowden revelations, an important aim of this exhibit is to encourage their own making and doing – specifically to build or otherwise acquire their own SAIB for installing and using at their home institutions.

Browse 2017 Projects

Alac: STS Olfactorium

Battles: The Trial Balloon: buoyancy, embodied media, and patchy planetarity

Callahan: Rethinking Citizen Science through doing Citizen Science

Cardoso Llach: Tracing Design Ecologies

Clement: Snowden Surveillance Archive

Cohen: Toward Improving Public Policy for Struct Engrg Design of Bridge, Transport & Marine Infrastructure

Durnova: Politicizing the scientific self through media interventions

Erickson-Davis: What it is to see: a simulation of artificial vision

Gluzman: Feminist Theory Theater

Gomez-Marquez: Construction Sets for DIY Medical Technologies and their Black Box Counterparts

Hidalgo: Collaborative Research Toolkit: a copyleft resource for the co-design of research processes

Hoagland: Getting a Sense of the Place: Navigating FemTechNet’s Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Workbook

Houston: Collaborative urban sensing with the “Dustbox” air quality monitor

Howell: Emotional Interpretation & Materiality of Biosensing

Johnson: Engineering Comes Home: Co-designing local infrastructure with residents of a London housing estate

Kennedy: Doing STS at the science/policy intersection

Knopes: Integrating STS into Bioethics and Medical Humanities Programs

Lachney: Generative STEM: Circulating Unalienated Value in Education, Labor and Environment

Lawson: (T)racing Eyes and Hearts:  An Installation to Explore the Physiology of Empathy

Lehr: Undergraduate STSers Learn by Doing in the Trump Era

Lippman: Making Sensible in 360°

Michails: AirTRACS: Community-based Air Quality Monitoring

Mogul: A STS STEM Education Incubator: The Co-Making of Inquiry

Mohsin: QEERI’s Science Majlis

Murphy: Environmental Data and Governance Initiative: Engaged STS Responding to the U.S.Administration

Nafus: Data Sense

Navarro: Our Driverless Futures: Speculating Moral Dilemmas of Self-Driving Cars

Nieusma: STS Design and Innovation: Disciplinary Discomfiture

Onaga: Biomaterial Matters: Fitting Humans into Cocoons, A Speculative Prototype

Ostman: STS approaches to public engagement with science: Synthetic biology

Ostrowski: The Empirical Printing Program

Perez Comisso: Technological theory for all: Teaching experiments on STS in Chile

Rosado Murillo: Pedal Transcriba, an Ethnographic Device of (and for) Qualitative Research

Shapiro: Detoxifying the environment across temporalities

Steensen: Face-off! Platform versus Self: A photobooth experiment

Stern: Zika and Feminist STS: Building a Network, Doing Collective Scholarship

Taylor: Connecting-Probing-Reflecting Spaces: The New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC)

Terrell: The making of an undergraduate Sociotechnical Ethics Society

Wentworth: Handholds: making sense of bodies through slaughter

Wong: Design Workbook Variations: Exploring Biosensing Privacy Futures

Wylie: Making and Doing STS with Undergraduate Engineers: The UVA Approach