Passports: identity and airports
Passports: identity and airports

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Passports: identity and airports

4.1 A material analysis of the airport

Figure 6 Towards passport control

You will now have the chance to apply some of the insights gained from the previous section to objects commonly found in the airport.

Activity 4

In this activity you’ll be examining two objects – the passport and the baggage scanner – in light of the analysis. To help you do this, consider the following questions for each item:

  • What work has to be done if the object in question is present?
  • What work would have to be done if the object in question were not present?
  • What is being delegated?
  • How (if at all) is this object configuring or scripting the person using it?

Then make some notes about them in the boxes below.

1. The passport

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Now watch the following video where these questions are posed and answered for the passport. (Don’t worry if your answers were different to ours.)

Download this video clip.Video player: The passport
Skip transcript: The passport

Transcript: The passport

NARRATOR
Mr. T is double-checking his passport. It's the official document to establish one's identity, nationality, and the right to travel, and it controls his progress through the airport. Looking at the passport as a material artefact, here are the four questions again and an example of some possible answers.
A. What work has to be done if the passport is present? It only has to be handed over whenever it's needed to establish identity.
B. What work would have to be done to establish identity if people didn't carry passports? If there were no passports, other types of documentation would be needed to establish that people were who they said they were. It could be a birth certificate, a notarised photo, a mother's birth certificate or letter of naturalisation, or something to show a person's not on bail or wanted by the police.
C. What is being delegated by the use of a passport? In the front cover of a British passport, you'll find this text. "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary." So the passport delegates the authority of the crown, the whole infrastructure and authority of the civil service into a single pocket-sized document.
D. How, if at all, is the passport configuring or scripting the person using it? The passport contains a number of literal scripts, which layout various expectations and obligations on its bearer, who tacitly accepts these every time he or she uses it. The very act of applying for a passport configures a person to adopt a number of subject positions regarding identity, national laws, and nationality. For example, one has to accept oneself as a citizen of Great Britain, rather than, say, Scotland or Wales, and accept a particular and specific relationship to the state and the head of state.
End transcript: The passport
The passport
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

2. The baggage scanner

Now watch the following video where these questions are posed for the baggage scanner.

Download this video clip.Video player: The baggage scanner – questions
Skip transcript: The baggage scanner – questions

Transcript: The baggage scanner – questions

NARRATOR
Mr. T is ready to go through the security checks between the airport's landside and airside.
TICKET AGENT
May I see your boarding card?
NARRATOR
This involves showing his passport and boarding card, then queuing to go through security.
TICKET AGENT
Lovely. Thank you.
MAN
Thank you.
NARRATOR
First, he'll have to put all his things in trays, take off his shoes, and send it all through the X-ray machine.
He'll walk through the metal detector, and then be subjected to a body search.
SECURITY GUARD
OK. Arms out.
MAN
Thank you.
NARRATOR
While this is happening, airport staff are examining the contents of his bags in the luggage scanner.
How would you answer the same set of questions about the luggage scanner?
A) what work has to be done if the luggage scanner is present?
B) what work would have to be done if the luggage scanner was not present?
C) what does the luggage scanner delegate?
D) how, if at all, is the luggage scanner scripting or configuring the person using it?
Work out your answers now.
End transcript: The baggage scanner – questions
The baggage scanner – questions
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Now watch the following video where these questions are answered for the baggage scanner. (Don’t worry if your answers were different to ours.)

Download this video clip.Video player: The baggage scanner – answers
Skip transcript: The baggage scanner – answers

Transcript: The baggage scanner – answers

INSTRUCTOR
Here are some possible answers to questions about the luggage scanner.
A) The passenger has to put his belongings on the conveyor belt and collect them afterwards. The operator has to look at the scan of the luggage, pointing out anything suspicious so someone can inspect it more carefully.
B) Without this material artefact, every item of luggage would need to be searched by hand. That would mean more people working longer hours, passengers queuing much longer at security, and could even mean the airport would have to be bigger to accommodate the queues.
C) The scanner delegates the work of searching the bags to a machine. As well as saving staff time, the scanner can record and identify the contents of bags and separate different materials-- organic, non-organic, non-penetrable – using colour codes.
D) Scripting during the security check is relatively limited and overt. It configures the passenger in ways that make the process run efficiently, giving instructions on conduct like removing laptops and shoes, putting phones and change into trays, and so on.
End transcript: The baggage scanner – answers
The baggage scanner – answers
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
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