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Kelly Gates

Associate Professor, Communication and Director, Science Studies Program, Director of Graduate Studies

Professor Gates’ research focuses on the critical analysis of digital media technologies. Her main emphasis has been the politics and social implications of computerization, and particularly the automation of surveillance, in the United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present.

Her 2011 book, Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, explores the effort underway since the 1960s to teach computers to see the human face. The book examines the social construction of automated facial recognition and automated facial expression analysis, focusing on the conceptual and cultural frameworks that are used to think about these technologies, and on the constellations of interests, institutions and social practices that are shaping their development. Gates argues that, despite persistent claims that computers have no social bias, in fact there is no such thing as a computer vision program that can “see” faces in a culturally neutral way. It is especially important to recognize this, because the face has been a special object of attention in the organization of visual practices and the development of visual media technologies, and technologies designed for representing and analyzing the face have played a central role in defining and redefining what it means to be human.

Professor Gates is currently working on a new project that investigates the emerging professional field of video forensics and its attendant technologies in order to examine the ways in which new visual imaging and archiving technologies are being incorporated into, and transforming, modern investigatory and evidentiary practices. She is especially interested in the emerging forms that police work is taking in the digital economy, including the cultural labor that the police perform in their roles as surveillance workers and media analysts.

At UCSD, Professor Gates teaches courses on the history of communication research, the Internet and society, the cultural history of photography and visual culture, and surveillance and the risk society.

PhD in Communications Research from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Selected Articles 
  • Kelly Gates. “Policing as Digital Platform.” Surveillance and Society 17:1/2 (2019): 63-68. 
  • “Counting the Uncounted: What the Absence of Data on Police Killings Reveals.” In Digital Media and Democratic Futures, ed. Michael X. Delli Carpini, 121-142. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.
  • Kelly Gates. “Designing Affective Consumers: Emotion Analysis in Market Research.” In Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture, ed. Toby Miller. Routledge, 2015.
  • Kelly Gates. “The Work of Wearing Cameras: Police Media Work and the Police Media Economy.” In Routledge Companion to Labor and Media, ed. Richard Maxwell. Routledge, 2015.
  • Kelly Gates. “Professionalizing Police Media Work: Surveillance Video and the Forensic Sensibility.” In Images, Ethics, Technology, ed. Sharona Pearl.  Routledge, 2015. 
  • Mark Andrejevic and Kelly Gates (eds.) Special issue of Surveillance and Society on “Big Data Surveillance.” Surveillance and Society 12:2 (2014).   
  • Kelly Gates. “Key Questions for Communication and Critical-Cultural Studies: Posthumanism, Network Infrastructures, and Sustainability.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. 10:2-03 (2013): 242-247.
  • Kelly Gates. “The Cultural Labor of Surveillance: Video Forensics, Computational Objectivity, and the Production of Visual Evidence.” Social Semiotics. 23:2 (2013): 242-260.
  • Kelly Gates. “The Globalization of Homeland Security.” In Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies, eds. Kirstie Ball, Kevin Haggerty, and David Lyon, 292-299.  Routledge, 2012.  
  • Kelly Gates. “The Securitization of Financial Identity and the Expansion of the Consumer Credit Industry.” Journal of Communication Inquiry. 34:4 (2010): 417-431.
  • Kelly Gates. “Will Work for Copyrights: The Cultural Policy of Anti-Piracy Campaigns.” In The Contemporary Hollywood Reader, ed. Toby Miller, 486-499. Routledge, 2009. [Originally published in Social Semiotics 16:1 (April 2006): 57-73.]