Tracking Initial Reading

Tracking: Eyes, VCRs, packages, fugitives, birds, planes: tracking implies the ability to follow, the power to trace, and yet also a distance or even absence of the thing sought. It suggests a paradoxical position of authority and powerlessness, of oversight but not necessarily control. To track is not to have, or to hold, but to lack. How do things or people become trackable? What infrastructures or technologies or kinds of expertise are involved, and how do they change as forms of tracking are built and dissolved? Put like this, tracking appears as a process of making the world legible, but is tracking a purely ocular concept? I don’t think so: we have sound tracks, and also recording devices like the eight track, or even the simple ‘tracks,’ the songs on an album, the grooves on a record. From this position, tracking becomes broader than vision, but also suggests choices about the order of things, or which parts of the world are strung together and which parts are left out, or held in parallel. Tracking indicates a certain ordering in space and time, and so a certain predictability. Train tracks are not supposed to harbor surprises; running tracks are designed to homogenize and make comparable. That fading ideal, the tenure track job, implies a certain regularity and sequentiality, a course that can be foreseen. But what happens when we go off track? When plans are derailed? What happens when we lose track of things—time, mail, the number of times that … —and our ordering of the world lapses into disorder? Tracking here always seems to hover on the edge of its opposite, to crash into something precarious or destabilizing. Keeping track of, and keeping on track require a surprising amount of work. So who does it? What kinds of work are involved?

Poll tracking, railway tracks, animal tracks, track and field, the other side of the tracks, GPS and navigation, migrant trails, cookies as tracking devices, tracking shots, track suits.

a quick thought on tracking (as I won’t be there to share/discuss), the NYT article on shoppers brings up some really interesting questions about the relationship of tracking as either stalking or gathering information on consumers. it reminded me of our discussion’s last year on the separation between ‘real’ vs. ‘virtual’ life, with tracking taking on new meanings depending on which context it is carried out in (the idea of technology being able to read your emotions as an example of going too far). there is also the interesting point of technology ‘tracking’ gender and offering gendered-based coupons/items to customers (Yami)

Technologies of Tracking/Surveillance:

Radhika Viyas Mongia, “Race, Nationality, and Mobility: A History of the Passport” Public Culture (Fall 1999).

Ginette Verstaete Tracking Europe: Mobility, Diaspora, and the Politics of Location (Chapter 4: High Tech Security, Mobility and Migration)

Simone Browne Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke 2015)

Clifford, Stephanie and Quentin Hardy. “Attention, Shoppers: Store is Tracking Your Cell.” NYT article, July 2013.…

Etienne Benson Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife (JHU Press 2010)

Gregoire Chamayou Manhunts: A Philosophical History (Princeton UP 2012)

Associated Press, “How Delta is trying to solve the problem of lost and delayed luggage” LA Times August 31 2016

Carlo Ratti & Matthew Claudel, The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life (Yale UP 2016)

Heather Kelly / CNN, “Tracking the flu with technology and Twitter” January 30 2013 

Nicholas Mirzoeff, “The Right to Look” Critical Inquiry 37:3 (Spring 2011): 473-496.

Education and Tracking

Burris, Carol Corbett. On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the 21st Century Struggle Against Resegregation. Beacon Press, 2014. [hard copy at Yale SML]

Jeannie Oakes, Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality 

LeTendre, Gerald K., Barbara K. Hofer, Hidetada Shimizu. “What is Tracking? Cultural Expectations in the United States, Germany, and Japan”. American Educational Research Journal, Spring 2003. 

Tyson, Karolyn. Integration Interrupted: Tracking, Black Students, and Acting White after Brown. Oxford University Press, 2011. Yale ebook:

Recording (Sound and Visual) Tracks:

Albin Zak, The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. University of California Press, 2001. Yale e-book:

Wojcik, Pamela Robertson, Arthur Knight. Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music. Duke University Press, 2001. Yale e-book: 

Tracking Shots in Film: Opening tracking shot of Touch of Evil (4 minutes) at

(Infrastructure) Tracks:

Aguiar, Marian. Tracking Modernity: India’s Railway and the Culture of Mobility. University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Yale e-book:

Lynne, Kirby. Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema. Duke Universtiy Press, 1997. Yale e-book:

Tracks in the Natural World

John Edward Huth, The Lost Art of Finding Our Way (Harvard UP, 2013)

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways (Penguin, 2012)

Robert Moor, On Trails (Simon & Schuster, 2016)

Paul Rezendes, Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs (Collins 1999)

…and tracksuits

Shut Up Little Man – documentary Randa mentioned about the soundtracks made from overhearing fights