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Roger Clarke's 'Locational Scenarios'

Scenario Analysis for Locational Information Futures

Sketch of 3 January 2022

Roger Clarke **

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Location and tracking activities are supported by a wide array of technologies. The exploitation of locational information has been central to the emergence and the rapid ascendancy of the digital surveillance economy, and evidences many lines of development. It. The techniques and the data flows are largely hidden from public view, which creates challenges for the conduct of studies of the political economics of the phenomenon. The resulting data is readily exploited to deliver convenience and trigger hedonic behaviour, and hence lull consumers and citizens into compliance. There are few natural controls. Few players are motivated to inbuild safeguards into the technical architecture and infrastructure. Self-regulatory mechanisms are ineffective in such contexts. Formal regulation is slow, cumbersome and subject to subversion and neutralisation by well-resourced providers. A sense of inevitability exists that individuals' scope for self-determination in economic, social and political spheres is in the process of being strangled.

In contexts that embody complexity and limited information, the scenario analysis technique has proven valuable to corporations and government. The term 'scenario', as used in the analysis process, describes a trajectory of possible, logically connected future events. The description is expressed as a story-line that represents an imagined but realistic world. A factual starting-point is outlined. One or more contextual factors are used as driving forces for the story, behaviour-patterns for those driving forces are postulated, and interactions with known economic and societal processes are worked through, reflecting likely responses by influential participants. The result is a plausible path, with indications of the outcomes and the new state.

The technique involves the development of a set of such scenarios that has requisite variety for the purpose. The value derives from a combination of the depth of insights achieved within each scenario, together with the diversity among the different scenarios' paths of development. Scenario analysis can be described as 'quasi-empirical', because information deriving from it 'resembles', or is 'seemingly but not actually', representative of real-world phenomena.

In Clarke (2019), a proposal was put forward for the application of scenario analysis to study of the digital surveillance economy. Although preliminary, small-scale work is possible as a sole researcher and in small teams, the technique would be far effective if conducted within a research program in which foundation and analytical work is distributed across teams of contributors with diverse disciplinary and professional expertise and perspectives.

Foundational work is needed to establish a common understanding of locational technologies, the recent and current landscape of use of locational technologies in business and government, countermeasures of a technical nature, and regulatory mechanisms extant and emergent.

Building on that base, multiple teams could then investigate a wide range of threads of potential development, some technology-driven (communications, cars, wearables, facial recognition, payment/'loyalty'/ticketing mechanisms), and some within particular sectoral contexts (health, health insurance, car-insurance). Other could be in the regulatory sphere, and still others reflect political drivers (the national-security-industry complex, provided with continual opportunities for surveillance and repression, such as trade/cold/proxy-warfare incl. re Ukraine, Taiwan, the South China Sea; immigration hordes arising from famine, water shortage, warfare, inundation; etc.).

Researcher Background

Roger Clarke is consultant of long standing in strategic and policy implications of advanced information technologies. He has degrees in business and information systems, and a doctorate in information technology. He has made substantial contributions to the literatures on surveillance, particularly dataveillance, including in relation to human identification and the digital persona. His succession of works on location and tracking topics commenced in 1999.

He is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, based in Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor associated with the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation in UNSW Law, and a Visiting Professor in the Computer Science at the Australian National University. Here are his academic CV and Google Scholar page.


Clarke R. (1988) 'Information Technology and Dataveillance' Commun. ACM 31,5 (May 1988), PrePrint at (1126 Google citations)

Clarke R. (1994a) 'The Digital Persona and Its Application to Data Surveillance' The Information Society 10,2 (June 1994) 77-92, PrePrint at (349)

Clarke R. (1994b) 'Human Identification in Information Systems: Management Challenges and Public Policy Issues' Info. Technology & People 7,4 (December 1994), PrePrint at (549)

Clarke R. (2001) 'Person Location and Person Tracking: Technologies, Risks and Policy Implications' Info. Techno. & People 14, 2 (Summer 2001) 206-31, PrePrint at (220)

Clarke R. (2009a) 'The Covert Implementation of Mass Vehicle Surveillance in Australia' Proc. Fourth Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security: Covert Policing, April 2009, Canberra, PrePrint at (13)

Clarke R. (2009b) 'A Framework for Surveillance Analysis' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, August 2009, at (8)

Clarke R. (2010) 'What is Uberveillance? (And What Should Be Done About It?)' IEEE Technology and Society 29, 2 (Summer 2010) 17-25 , PrePrint at (30)

Clarke R. & Wigan M.R. (2011) 'You Are Where You've Been: The Privacy Implications of Location and Tracking Technologies' J. of Location Based Services 5, 3-4 (December 2011) 138-155, PrePrint at (74)

Michael K. & Clarke R. (2013) 'Location and Tracking of Mobile Devices: Uberveillance Stalks the Streets' Comp. L. & Security Rev. 29, 3 (May-June 2013) 216-228, PrePrint at (124)

Clarke R. (2014) ''Promise Unfulfilled: The Digital Persona Concept, Two Decades Later' Information Technology & People 27, 2 (Jun 2014) 182 - 207, PrePrint at (32)

Greenleaf G., Johnston A., Arnold B., Lindsay D., Clarke R. & Coombs E. (2019) 'Digital platforms: The need to restrict surveillance capitalism' Australian Privacy Foundation submission to the ACCC, 22 February 2019, at

Clarke R. (2019) 'Risks Inherent in the Digital Surveillance Economy: A Research Agenda' Journal of Information Technology 34,1 (Mar 2019) 59-80, PrePrint at (36)
including Research into Alternative Futures, including Scenario Analysis, at

Clarke R. (2020a) 'Notes on Auto-Surveillance' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, December 2020, at

Clarke R. (2020b) 'We need to examine the many narratives of the COVIDsafe app' UNSW Newsroom, 4 May 2020, PrePrint at

Clarke R. (2022a) 'Research Opportunities in the Regulatory Aspects of Electronic Markets' Forthcoming, Electronic Markets, PrePrint at,
including The Platform-Based Business Sector, at

Clarke R. (2022b) 'Responsible Application of Artificial Intelligence to Surveillance: What Prospects?' Forthcoming, Information Polity, at

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The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.

From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.

Sponsored by the Gallery, Bunhybee Grasslands, the extended Clarke Family, Knights of the Spatchcock and their drummer
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Created: 3 January 2022 - Last Amended: 3 January 2022 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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