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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