Anne: Croeso i chi gyd. And I bet there’s only one in the audi­ence who just under­stood what I said. That was a warm wel­come to you in Welsh, and it’s real­ly great to hear so many dif­fer­ent lan­guages here [at] the 30c3.

Policing the Romantic Crowd - 02

That’s where we are in Aberystwyth. That’s twen­ty kilo­me­ters north of the only place in Europe where civil­ian and mil­i­tary drones can be test­ed in civil­ian air­space. And that’s cru­cial for future polic­ing tech­niques with drones in high den­si­ty envi­ron­ments. We’re also fifty kilo­me­ters north of the town where Manning went to school when he was a teenag­er. So we’re at the periph­ery of Europe, but also at the heart of some of its major debates. That’s a per­fect exam­ple, I would say, for Deleuze and Guattari’s the­o­ry of the rhi­zome of non-hierarchical entry points into cul­ture, and in our talk we’re going to bring some of these entry points into cre­ative oppo­si­tion.


Since first we draft­ed this paper, we have seen in both Germany and the UK major exam­ples of crowd activism. Here in Hamburg last week­end, and ear­li­er this month in London, where amaz­ing­ly all three ele­ments of our talk Policing the Romantic Crowd” came togeth­er spec­tac­u­lar­ly. This was the scene in London, where thou­sands of stu­dents were protest­ing against police pres­ence on uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus­es, and Richard was espe­cial­ly pleased to see a Romantic book, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) among the book shields car­ried by Book Bloc. This reminds us that a pow­er­ful rhetor­i­cal tra­di­tion of civ­il lib­er­ties and gen­der equal­i­ty has its roots in Romantic art and poet­ry.

Richard: But our point isn’t that Romanticism has already had all the insights into sur­veil­lance cul­ture, the cul­ture of the nose. That said, it does appear that the Romantics saw the Internet com­ing.


Okay, maybe not the Internet, but cer­tain­ly peer net­works of com­mu­ni­ca­tion based on trust. We have to be care­ful about dis­tin­guish­ing between mere analo­gies link­ing the Romantic peri­od to our own age that maybe don’t have any use­ful analogs, and those that do have some con­tin­ued oper­a­tional rel­e­vance. Because it is the case that Romantic writ­ers like John Keats, Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, philo­soph­i­cal­ly mod­eled and to some extent thought through many of the debates and issues that we’re cur­rent­ly hav­ing as we seek to shape the con­tours of our future soci­eties.

These writ­ers lived in the age that first imag­ined total sur­veil­lance. This is the age of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, pub­lished in 1791. So at the very least it’s valu­able to remind our­selves where some of our ideas about sur­veil­lance and pri­va­cy and crowds and par­tic­u­lar­ly the polic­ing of rhetor­i­cal and dis­cur­sive space have come from. We’re going to go on a jour­ney into the Romantic crowd. What in Romantic slang is called the push,” a bit like the Kaffeeschlange out­side Saal 1. On the way we’ll be meet­ing Romantic poet John Keats, a cou­ple of dandies rid­ing veloci­pedes, a cer­tain Victor Frankenstein, and two crowds that man­aged to be in the same place at once.

Spring 1819, and German cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy arrives in London in the form of Karl Drais’ lauf­mas­chine. These veloci­pedes were pop­u­lar among the Romantic geeks of the day, well-dressed dandies like these two, very eager to try out new gad­gets, although the rudi­men­ta­ry steer­ing mech­a­nism sent many of them into hedges or tum­bling into duck ponds. John Keats, in a let­ter from March 1819, dis­missed this new tech­nol­o­gy.

The noth­ing of the day is a machine called the veloci­pede. It is a wheel-carriage to ride cock horse upon […] They will go sev­en miles an hour. A hand­some geld­ing will come to eight guineas, how­ev­er they will soon be cheap­er, unless the army takes to them.

So Keats is ridi­cul­ing Drais’ inven­tion as the noth­ing of the day.” But that word noth­ing” dis­guis­es a techno-ethical anx­i­ety. Anticipating that the army would take to them, Keats, who was part of a cir­cle of anti-government activists is wor­ried about poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tions.

Anne: Not quite like this design of the first police motor­bike from 1818, and cer­tain­ly not like Mega-City One’s take on the veloci­pede. But nonethe­less a poten­tial rev­o­lu­tion in polic­ing tech­niques. Keats was­n’t the only one to wor­ry about the army tak­ing to them. On September 1, 1819, a pop­u­lar mag­a­zine called The Tickler (they had great names back then) con­jured up a vision of an entire corps of veloci­pedites, or dandy dra­goons. And here they are rid­ing can­nons.


Such corps might be very use­ful for home ser­vice, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the occa­sion of pub­lic spec­ta­cles.
Dandy Dragoons”, The Tickler (1819)

What The Tickler is talk­ing about here is polic­ing demon­stra­tions, but that date September 1, 1819, is actu­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant. It was just two weeks after mount­ed police rid­ing real hors­es and armed with sabres had bru­tal­ly dis­persed 60,000 pro­tes­tors on St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. That was the infa­mous Peterloo Massacre. Thirteen peo­ple were slashed or tram­pled to death, and hun­dreds wound­ed. One eye­wit­ness was so appalled he found­ed a new lib­er­al news­pa­per called The Manchester Guardian, today just The Guardian.

But for all the humor, the Tickler is actu­al­ly sug­gest­ing that a corps of dandy dra­goons, police on veloci­pedes, could con­trol crowds with­out crush­ing peo­ple, and it adds by the same token that if the head of a dandy charg­er were shot off, the rid­er could sim­ply nail it back on again.” It’s anoth­er absurd image, but it pulls the veloci­pede into the frame of the techno-ethical debate about the polic­ing of pub­lic space.

In 1819 the veloci­pede, cheap, light­weight, and fast, looked like becom­ing part of the tech­nol­o­gy of domes­tic crowd con­trol, and post-Napoleonic expan­sion. As The Gentleman’s Magazine pre­dict­ed, echo­ing Keats:

The veloci­pede is one of those machines may prob­a­bly alter the whole sys­tem of soci­ety; because it is applic­a­ble to the move­ment of armies, and will allow fur­ther march­es than have ever been under­tak­en.

As it turned out, the veloci­pede did­n’t catch on, not for anoth­er forty years until ped­als were final­ly invent­ed. The point, though, is that the Romantics were quick to mod­el their impact eth­i­cal­ly, and on Britain’s fraught polit­i­cal land­scapes.

Richard: No one, of course, reads The Tickler any­more, but maybe they should because the mag­a­zine’s whim­si­cal take on fash­ion­able new machines in 1819 actu­al­ly hides an acute and sophis­ti­cat­ed response to the Peterloo Massacre, and of course to all poten­tial mis­us­es of tech­nol­o­gy. It’s as rad­i­cal in its own way as Percy Shelley’s better-known response to Peterloo, the poem The Mask of Anarchy” was. It cel­e­brates the ener­gies of the crowd by sedi­tious­ly sum­mon­ing anoth­er crowd into exis­tence.

Let a vast assem­bly be,
And with great solem­ni­ty
Declare with mea­sured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free.
The Mask of Anarchy,” Percy Bysshe Shelley

It’s not a piece of high abstrac­tion. It’s a crowd-pleaser made up of slo­gans, and Shelley even man­aged to antic­i­pate one of Occupy’s own slo­gans about the 99%, Ye are many and they are few.” But let’s not for­get this is rhetor­i­cal space, and how large pub­lic meet­ings in phys­i­cal space were to be under­stood legal­ly was cru­cial.

For the Manchester author­i­ties, the Peterloo crowd rep­re­sent­ed a sin­gle, multi-headed mon­ster. That part­ly explains why the mount­ed police were able to charge into the crowd and attack them indis­crim­i­nate­ly. If you were there, you were guilty. It’s the same log­ic behind today’s ket­tling tech­niques, and we saw that last week­end here in Hamburg. Incidentally, the offi­cial posi­tion on the break­ing up of the Rote Flora demo was that, quot­ing the offi­cial police spokesman, The pro­tes­tors sud­den­ly start­ed march­ing, and this was not what we agreed on with them, so we had to stop the march.” And the very same rea­son was giv­en for break­ing up the Peterloo meet­ing in 1819. As one gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tor explained at the tri­al of one of the orga­niz­ers, Henry Hunt, The crowd was pro­vid­ed with ban­ners and advanced with a firm mil­i­tary step, pre­sent­ing every appear­ance of troops upon their march.”

Ever since the French Revolution, that fear of march­ing crowds has nev­er real­ly gone away. It’s always there beneath the sur­face. Romantic lit­er­a­ture was fas­ci­nat­ed by the idea of crowds as poten­tial­ly government-toppling mon­sters, includ­ing the most famous Romantic nov­el of all, one of the most famous nov­els, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenstein was pub­lished in 1817, and that’s two years before Peterloo, but these were already riotous times, reg­u­lar­ly punc­tu­at­ed by enor­mous gath­er­ings of six­ty to eighty-thousand peo­ple protest­ing against the high price of bread, loss of jobs to machines, and cor­rupt politi­cians.

As we all know, Victor Frankenstein is work­ing at the lim­its, or beyond the lim­its, of Romantic techno-ethics. He cre­ates a mon­strous crea­ture, and then when he sees what he’s done he imme­di­ate­ly dis­owns it. The nov­el was straight away rec­og­nized in its own day as an alle­go­ry on techno-ethics, on the dan­gers of new sci­en­tif­ic tech­niques such as gal­vanism, but it was also rec­og­nized as an alle­go­ry on the polit­i­cal rela­tion­ship between a dis­sat­is­fied and under­rep­re­sent­ed peo­ple and their uncar­ing rulers. The crea­ture’s com­plaint that he’d been betrayed the father fig­ure Frankenstein is also the com­plaint of the under­priv­eledged crowd protest­ing at their treat­ment by the state.

But it does­n’t end well for Frankenstein’s crea­ture, right? And the first thing that rad­i­cal lawyers after Peterloo did (and these were not secret tri­als, as Chelsea Manning’s was, but these were pub­lic show tri­als) was to build their clients’ defense cas­es around an agent-based rather than a flow mod­el of crowd dynam­ics. As one Romantic attor­ney insist­ed, a per­son­’s pres­ence in a riot did not in itself prove riotous behav­ior. Quoting from the tri­al records,

The third and last charge was sedi­tious riot. What was riot? There was no such thing as riot in the abstract; the indi­vid­ual must be found actu­al­ly riot­ing. Even if a mul­ti­tude was riotous, a man could not be made a riot­er, even if present, if he was found hold­ing no par­tic­i­pa­tion in the tumult that pre­vailed.
The Trial of Henry Hunt (1820)

Anne: Such argu­ments won the day, as can be seen in the cur­rent UK police man­u­al of guid­ance on pub­lic order polic­ing. This is the the­o­ry, any­way. Reading from the man­u­al,

As with any crowd, the protest crowd is not a homo­ge­neous mass but a col­lec­tion of groups and indi­vid­u­als who, while shar­ing the same vol­un­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion with­in the crowd, may with to express them­selves in dif­fer­ent ways.
Police Manual of Guidance, Public Order Policing (2010), Section 5.51

So how one under­stood inter­ac­tion with­in crowds in the Romantic peri­od was cru­cial. It could mean the dif­fer­ence between free­dom and the scaf­fold. The ques­tions Romantics asked them­selves about crowds are the same as com­put­er vision asks itself now, ques­tions about how crowds form or how infor­ma­tion was trans­mit­ted across them, whether behav­ior could actu­al­ly be pre­dict­ed, and whether crowds were col­lec­tive enti­ties or made up of indi­vid­u­als.

The agent-based mod­el­ing tech­nique such as the social force mod­el appear to have set­tled some of these. They’ve trans­formed sub-domains of sur­veil­lance such as event detec­tion and group track­ing, and it turns out one of the keys to accu­rate­ly pre­dict­ing and inter­pret­ing human inter­ac­tion with­in high-density envi­ron­ments is veloc­i­ty.

Riccardo Mazzon, Fabio Poiesi, Andrea Cavallaro, "Detection and tracking of groups in crowd" [PDF]

Riccardo Mazzon, Fabio Poiesi, Andrea Cavallaro, Detection and track­ing of groups in crowd” [PDF]

If you look at these pic­tures D–F here, the decel­er­a­tion sub­ject (with the short­en­ing blue arrow) pro­duces attrac­tive force as he approach­es a sta­tion­ary group. Deceleration indi­cates affil­i­a­tion, or in Romantic terms, sym­pa­thy. Because as Mary Fairclough has shown, Romantic activists regard the move­ment of infor­ma­tion across crowds as an instinc­tive flow of sym­pa­thy.

The author­i­ties on the oth­er hand, saw this prop­a­ga­tion of data as con­ta­gion. Modern visu­al analy­sis uses the phrase attrac­tive force” to describe the rela­tion­ship between peo­ple, which sounds neu­tral. However those Romantic terms, sym­pa­thy or con­ta­gion depend­ing upon your polit­i­cal out­look, are still there beneath the sur­face. As you slow down you give up social infor­ma­tion, pur­pose, which the algo­rithm then pars­es either as nor­mal or abnor­mal. But of course such terms are ide­o­log­i­cal­ly freight­ed.

For exam­ple, does the data set here from left to right show escape, pan­ic, or could it depict the begin­nings of a flash mob? And how much inter­ac­tion in crowds is nor­mal, any­way? Clearly spa­tial con­text is cru­cial, but even here the researchers’ assump­tions aren’t neu­tral.

In a nor­mal scene of a stock mar­ket, the inter­ac­tion force of stock bro­kers would be quite high­er than the inter­ac­tion forces of walk­ing pedes­tri­ans in a street scene.
Mehran, Oyama, Shah, Abnormal Crowd Behavior Detection using Social Force Model

For most peo­ple there’s noth­ing nor­mal about the scene of a stock mar­ket, but what’s more, the bina­ry group­ing of nor­mal and abnor­mal in these much-used datasets (they’re from Getty Images) is very reveal­ing.


In the cat­e­go­ry nor­mal crowd scenes” we find pedes­tri­an walk­ing (Is there any oth­er kind, I won­der?) and marathon run­ning. And under abnor­mal” we find crowd fight­ing and pro­tes­tors clash­ing, but pub­lic protest isn’t abnor­mal. It’s of course part of the demo­c­ra­t­ic process. Today’s SFM multi-object track­ing tech­niques don’t only pre­dict where objects and groups mov­ing through crowds are going to be, but they also pre­dict where peo­ple have been, and this is poten­tial­ly real­ly scary. Quoting the paper,

[Trajectory esti­ma­tion] explains the whole past, as if it has always exist­ed. We can fol­low a tra­jec­to­ry back in time to deter­mine where a pedes­tri­an came from when he first stepped into view.
Leibe, Schindler, Cornelis, Van Gool, Coupled object detec­tion and track­ing from sta­t­ic cam­eras and mov­ing vehi­cles” [PDF]

In this brave new statistically-plausible world it’s pos­si­ble to exist in two pasts simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. One ques­tion imme­di­ate­ly aris­es, then. To what extent will sur­veilled sub­jects in the future be held account­able for their esti­mat­ed past move­ments?

Richard: It turns out that the Romantics wor­ried about pre­cise­ly this ques­tion. So to fin­ish, we want to show you a Romantic data set of crowd inter­ac­tion, and one that pow­er­ful­ly explores the psy­cho­log­i­cal impact of pro­ject­ing some­body back­wards into an esti­mat­ed tra­jec­to­ry. It’s a good exam­ple of how Romantic lit­er­a­ture and art opens a space of shared imag­i­na­tion that’s still avail­able to us now.

London, 13th of September 1819. Four weeks after Peterloo, two weeks after that Tickler arti­cle, and one o’clock in the after­noon. Two polit­i­cal pro­ces­sions were are about to take place. The first is enor­mous. It’s up to 300,000 peo­ple, pos­si­bly the largest Romantic crowd ever, and they’ve gath­ered to cheer the activist Henry Hunt on his way back into London to stand tri­al for trea­son for his part in orga­niz­ing Peterloo. His sup­port­ers are call­ing it Hunt’s Triumphant Entry into London.” The sec­ond crowd is also enor­mous, and it’s filled with dark shad­ows and sus­pi­cions. That crowd is accom­pa­ny­ing Christ into Jerusalem. And for one man that day, our poet John Keats, both pro­ces­sions are tak­ing place at the same time.

So it’s the largest gath­er­ing in London ever at that date. Odd then that Keats hard­ly men­tions it in his let­ter.

You will hear by the papers of the pro­ceed­ings at Manchester, and Hunt’s tri­umphant entry into London. I will mere­ly men­tion that it is cal­cu­lat­ed 30,000 [he means 300,000] peo­ple were in the streets wait­ing for him.

As I passed Colnaghi’s win­dow I saw a pro­file por­trait of Sandt, the destroy­er of Ketzebue. His very look must inter­est every on in his favour.
John Keats, Letter of 18 Sept 1819

It’s odd he says noth­ing about the ban­ner or the flags, and actu­al­ly he’s more inter­est­ed in this por­trait of Sandt. The year before in 1818, Karl Sandt had stabbed the dis­tin­guished drama­tist Kotzebue after accus­ing him of betray­ing the nation. So two crowds, one real, one a paint­ing.

In that paint­ing, Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem” we find Keats’ face, paint­ed by his one-time friend Benjamin Robert Haydon. The paint­ing has­n’t been exhib­it­ed at the time Hunt’s pro­ces­sion takes place, but Keats is very famil­iar with the paint­ing. He’s seen it propped up in Haydon’s din­ing room, where it’s been the back­drop to many rad­i­cal din­ners, absorb­ing some of those rad­i­cal ener­gies and per­haps some of the atmos­phere of sus­pi­cion. By August 1819, Haydon’s rela­tion­ship with Keats has dis­in­te­grat­ed. For the painter, Keats is an oppor­tunist who’s only using the activist net­works as a way to get his work out in the rad­i­cal press.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed that Keats is the only per­son speak­ing in the crowd. There he is along­side oth­er famous faces, Voltaire, Newton, Wordsworth, Keats is in green. He’s the only one talk­ing because he’s found him­self cast by Haydon, who’s fall­en out with him by now, in the role of the infil­tra­tor, the whis­per­er, the betray­er, the agent provo­ca­teur. In short, with­in the alle­go­ry of the paint­ing, as Judas him­self.

So as Keats stands around the London crowds, look­ing at Hunt’s sup­port­ers and see­ing Christ’s, he must have felt uncom­fort­able. Haydon’s paint­ing itself becomes a para­ble of the reform move­ment clos­ing in on itself, of polit­i­cal friend­ships strain­ing under the pres­sures of sur­veil­lance, and of what hap­pens when social con­fi­dence breaks down. So when Keats tells us in the let­ter that he does­n’t feel part of the crowds it’s because he’s stand­ing in two crowds at once, like many of us today. He’s a quan­tum Keats, a Keats who dis­turbs our sense of his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive. A dou­ble expo­sure. A dou­ble agent. That face in the print shop win­dow of Sandt and his vic­tim Kotzebue must’ve brought home to Keats, and medi­at­ed, the still-fraught dyadic iden­ti­ties of friend and betray­er, activist and spy. Finally, in many ways, that paint­ing of Haydon’s is one of Romanticism’s most pro­found and mov­ing reflec­tions on the per­son­al and inter-personal dam­age caused by sur­veil­lance cul­ture.

We’ll leave it there. Thanks for lis­ten­ing.

Audience 1: My knowledge of the Romantic movement is not really extensive, but I do associate it also with a fear of technology, and not necessarily with crowds but with individuality, and I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit about the notion of Frankenstein which is often read as a sort of call to engage responsibly with technology, and also of a broader sense of Romantic distrust of crowds, where it's precisely the big groups of people in which you lose your individuality, and as a result you get these traditional Romantic heroes alone in nature without an iPod.

Richard: It's a fantastic question, and you're absolutely right. In a sense, until recently the orthodox view of Romanticism is that it is a period of the emergence of the individual genius, the great romantic solitary genius who he (usually a man) is really just a conduit or hollow bone for inspiration to travel down onto the page, and the Romantic hero emerges with a fragment, all he can grasp from the great infinite.

I say that's the orthodox. That's being challenged and we now have a much more nuanced sense of Romanticism as a period of coterie, of circles of writers gathering together. So the idea that Keats, for example, is a poet of autumn who sort of floats over the earth having cut himself free, a transcendental figure who writes about the great eternal themes of beauty and truth and music. In actual fact he's friends with a man, Leigh Hunt, who's served two years in prison for insulting the Prince Regent. He called him "a fat Adonis of 50." Fortunately he survived prison, but that's what the state did to him.

Keats wrote a sonnet celebrating his release from prison. The first thing he did was try to get an introduction and part of the agon between Haydon and Keats is that Haydon was really the conduit into this radical circle of poets. Keats very quickly left Haydon to one side, and sided with Leigh Hunt because Leigh Hunt had a newspaper and published Keats.

So it is a period of coteries, but the whole thing about the crowd, it's also a time when the crowd is gathering to itself a sort of sense of group agency. After all it was the crowd that wreaks havoc through France. It's what the British authorities are frightened of. And that's why as soon as they have hints the Peterloo crowd is drilling as a military force, they are very scared and they send in the police and they disperse them. But it's a great question.

Audience 2: A little bit of an anecdote first. The murder of Kotzebue was followed by the Karlsbader Beschlüsse in Germany, and it really really oppressed the civilization and was followed by the Biedermeier thing and so on, but what I wanted to ask is was there in Great Britain anything similar to that? Was there any oppression by the politics, especially after the massacre?

Richard: Yes, is the answer to that. The Six Acts immediately follows Peterloo, and the Six Acts essentially criminalizes people gathering in assemblies. It's already a period where Habeas Corpus is it's [? German phrase] as you would say. It's been lifted in the 1790s, it's lifted again in 1870. It's a very repressive period. It's a period of wide infiltration of coteries and crowds by spies, infiltrators. A lot of Romantic literature meditates on this, often in oblique ways because to say it openly was dangerous. You ended up in prison like Leigh Hunt.

So it is an oppressive period and the first thing the state does is a series of repressive legal measures aimed at preventing anything like Peterloo happening again. Not the violence, but the crowd activism.

Audience 3: My question, it's more like asking to elaborate on the part about the soft policing. Because I don't think there's much more being talked about that here, and I think it's really good to bring that up because I think that's a really really dangerous current that has been going on for a long time, as you've said. But developments now are like, just questions about what we can do to avoid this kind of analysis, and where there's more information on this.

Richard: You [Anne] have strong views about CCTV in Britain, for example.

Anne: Well, Britain is the country with the most CCTV cameras and private CCTV cameras in the world per head, really. And the drones we're just twenty kilometers up from, are basically just trying to find out new techniques where they can go into crowds, follow individuals, follow groups of crowds. They have this visual analysis technique where they're able to parse one group inter-merging with others, and then dispersing again, and especially in crowd systems or situations like demonstrations, protests. It'll be very useful for the police, and it's all been tested just below where we are.

Richard: The first police drones that were used to monitor crowds were actually in Liverpool. And the first velocipede often went into duck ponds (according to that cartoon), but the first police drone for that ended up in the river Mersey.

But in terms of what you can do about it, it cracks us up because there's the argument well, as soon as you stop talking about killer robots people will say, "Well yes, but drones do very useful things." And they do. Aberystwyth University, where we're from, drones are used to measure nitrogen levels in fields, to count sheep, a transferable skill set there. Lots of things. But it doesn't mean we have that we have to have killer robots. And the debate is getting going in Britain.

CCTV I think we've become accultured into, it's normalized for us. People don't see them.

Anne: And they actually advocate for them.

Richard: People want them. So streets will say, "Why haven't we got a CCTV camera protecting that wall at the end of our street?" The Council's very happy to provide them, usually.

Audience 4: It seems like a lot of this [inaudible] ahead is getting people to believe that this is good for them, and reinforcing that, encouraging them to believe that.

Richard: They're there for our safety. You'll always find those on shields.

Anne: But then again, we're both educators working in different institutions. And I think our role is being multipliers and also educating anybody that comes across exactly with giving them opposite views.

Richard: I teach them in the university. It's too late, but Anne sees them in the further education college where their brains are still a little bit more malleable, [crosstalk] so it's tough to do that.

Anne: So you think.

Audience 5: How much of the problem with policing and over-policing in the Romantic period was due to the fact that the state simply didn't have the right toolbox? I mean, it's important to remember that the people who were sabreing down innocent women and children in Peterloo, they weren't police, they were the Army. Chelsea barracks existed to police London because there wasn't a police force.

Richard: It's an important distinction that they weren't police, they were the [ownery?]. It was the paramilitary force, a militia, really. And they're poised awkwardly between a regular police force and the army, true. So it's paramilitary. But they were used as a police force in different places

Audience 5: The other thing I'd find quite interesting is that you're sort of focusing on urban policing. How much does this work with more rural policing? What comes to mind instantly with Wales is the Rebecca Riots against tollbooths, toll bridges, and toll roads.

Richard: We have a proud tradition in Wales, stretching back to the Rebecca Riots and beyond, and actually Chelsea Manning could be seen as part of that radical tradition. She had her teenage years in Britain and there's been a play recently (I think the only major play so far) Tim Price's "The Radicalization of Bradley Manning." It was first put on by the National Theatre.

In terms of wider policing issues, in actual fact the first thing The Gentleman's Magazine said about the velocipedes was this is great, we can pursue thieves out of the capital into the countryside now. So they were very adaptable in the way they saw the potential uses of this technology.

I think I lost your question slightly there, but…

Audience 6: I wanted to say thanks for your talk first. It was really really great, and also I guess I've got a point and then a question, if that's alright. The point is more of an elaboration on crowd-control policing in the UK today. I think I'm not the only person who was at that protest that you—

Richard: Was it you who cheered?

Audience 6: Yeah! I find it really really interesting that you brought up the lawyer's defenses and the idea of just being at a protest, or in a protest crowd, being not enough for conviction, because now that's basically the definition of the charge of violent disorder, which is the catch-all charge used to prosecute protestors and people on the streets in the UK right now. But your distinction between being in a crowd and being individuated as part of that crowd is really important I think for understanding how crowd-control policing works right now, because you can be prosecuted just for being part of that crowd. But at the same time people are being prosecuted because they've appeared on spotter's sites, on police cameras. And from the student riots in 2010, you saw people being picked out of the crowd, people's faces being put up in the newspapers, released by the police. They had twelve pictures shaming mostly young people of color. And the idea that you could be individuated and picked out but at the same time prosecuted for being part of a larger movement as a tactic of intimidation, and I guess that was my point.

My question was if you had any more information about what was the reaction to radical art in the Romantic period in terms of a political backlash? What was the state's reaction to Shelley and Keats writing all this stuff, because I don't know enough about that.

Richard: It's a technical process of de-individuation, that's what a lot of this technology is supposed to do. We de-individuate all the time just by slowing down as we approach a group of people, so it's an excellent point.

Anne: The first point I think for today, before you say your part about the Romantics, is there seems to be a difference between the theory as we've seen in the police manuals, and what they do on the streets. There is this lecturer in Leeds who has very successfully worked with the police in football crowd situations, where he taught the police (and that's where this manual comes from) how to not see a crowd as a mob, as an entity, but see the individuals. And it's worked very successfully, de-escalation techniques and all the rest of it, but it seems like for political protests nothing of this has been taken into account. So the theory and the reality is very disparate there.

Richard: Absolutely. That's Clifford Stott, he's doing that research and it's valuable. I think it's a really important distinction, stadium crowd and social panic of that kind, and protest are seen as very different things.

As for the Romantic response to radical art, very little in many cases because the politics was sublimated or sort of displaced onto nature poetry often. So what looked like a nature poem, pastoral poem, we talked a bit about this last year, is often in a sort of steganographic way radical literature that is disguising itself. And that's why it remains such a rich resource because we can pick over these things now, and we see those radical agendas and discourses that at the time were purposefully disguised. So the Romantics, in a sense, we can talk about unfinished conversations and continuities.

Presider: We have one last question from the Internet.

Audience 7 (CCC angel): We spoke a lot about history and the present, but there's also the future, and the question is do you expect any pre-crime laws in the near future? We already saw those pictures where people could be surveilled in a way. What can they do with it?

Richard: So Minority Report, predictive policing of that kind.

Anne: Well, they're doing that already, aren't they?

Richard: Yeah, it's very successful. It would be disingenuous to suggest that we had all the answers, and certainly Romantic literature and art is a rich resource, but I'm not quite sure how far into the future we can project. And we've seen the dangers of doing that, those estimated trajectories. I don't know. I think our sense is that autonomous and soft policing is raising all sorts of ethical issues, and quite where it's going to go is anybody's guess. But I would guess that it's going in that direction.

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