Much attention in cyber security has turned to new technologies and new materialities of information. These overlook the fact that much of security attention in everyday life is oriented around more conventional objects of security, such as documents. In this talk, I discuss why scholars should take documents and other everyday materialities more seriously. I build my argument based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the South Korean corporate world between 2011 and 2017. First, I suggest that even as organizations are increasingly paperless, documents nevertheless persist as focal objects, serving as idealised informational containers. Second, I suggest that digital security is not distinct from older material forms, such as paper; in contrast, new digital infrastructures are increasingly developed to protect older forms, such as cloud storage. Third, documents fit within social practices of protection beyond formal demands of information protection. I demonstrate how Korean employees I researched with treated documents with extra protection beyond legal requirements. These arguments point to new ways of thinking about how 'everyday' dimensions of security and securitisation are mediated by specific material objects and practices.
Michael Prentice was trained as a linguistic and cultural anthropologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His doctoral research focused on the role of genres of communication in modern workplaces, and how they come to articulate ideas of democracy, progress, and global management. He has carried out field research in the South Korean corporate world since 2011. His book manuscript looks at efforts to reform hierarchy in the Korean corporate world. At Manchester, he is a research fellow with the Digital Trust & Security initiative, focused on issues around workplace security. In particular, he is interested in addressing issues surrounding the effects of securitization on everyday work life.