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    Blank Generation: Encryption and Metadata in the Network of Mark Blacklock’s I’m Jack

    Eve, Martin Paul (2016) Blank Generation: Encryption and Metadata in the Network of Mark Blacklock’s I’m Jack. In: Literary Networks and Cultural Collaborations: From 19th Century to the Present Day, 29th October 2016, Birkbeck, University of London, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Recent arguments made by proponents of mass surveillance have focused on the fact that the content of messages may be irrelevant for spy agencies. What is clearly of greater import is that which can be inferred by the blank spaces of content when one knows the circumstances of transmission and reception across a network. It may be that “this is just metadata,” as Senator Feinstein claimed in 2014, but it is also clear that metadata alone provides sufficient clues to profile individuals, often with chilling consequences. In this paper, I read Mark Blacklock's 2015 experimental documentary novel, I'm Jack, as an exemplary reflection on contemporary surveillance and encryption cultures, centred around the idea of metadata and networks. The novel itself is comprised of a part-fictional, part-documentary historical tapestry of documents pertaining to John Humble, the “Wearside Jack” ripper hoaxer in 1978-79. Epistolary in form, each of the communications within the novel is dated and addressed, providing the necessary metadata for the historical narrative to fall into place. Crucially for my reading, however, significant portions of the novel are typeset sous rature. In its ------ spaces and ----- voids, Blacklock's text invokes a proto-facticity that, like many postmodern crime fictions, interpellates the reader in the role of detective. In turn, however, the readerly foreknowledge of the death of the recipient (gained through metadata) invokes an inverted paradigm to that of the anti-humanistic Theory era: the death of the reader. Ultimately, I will argue, although set in a time and place that exaggerates personal tragedy and localised networks (through the local terrorism of the Yorkshire ripper), Blacklock's novel provides a historical and aesthetic reflection on technology, communication and surveillance in a globalised world of insecurity.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Research Centres and Institutes: Contemporary Literature, Centre for
    Depositing User: Martin Eve
    Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2016 20:18
    Last Modified: 13 Jan 2017 11:45


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