Gary T. Marx | Bio | Back to Main Page | References
"You ought to have some papers to show who you are."
The police officer advised me.
"I do not need any paper. I know who I
am," I said.
"Maybe so. Other people are also
interested in knowing who you are."
—B. Traven, The Death Ship
The editors of this volume invited me to write about the growth of surveillance and the importance of scholarly efforts to understand it through the prism of my half a century's involvement with the topic. Being respectful of authority, if not always power, I ambivalently accepted,—unaccustomed as I am to the self-promotion and self-exegesis that often hides under the mask of academic formality and dispassion. Yet there is always a person behind the questions, methods and interpretations offered.
I will cover some sources of my initial interest in and later work on the topic; the kinds of questions surveillance developments raised for me in the latter part of the 20th century and some efforts to conceptually reign in and organize the field's empirical richness. I conclude with a discussion of the characteristics of surveillance studies as an emerging field.
The French poet Paul Valery (1965) has written, "in truth there is no theory which is not a fragment of an autobiography." But can we trust the autobiographer?
A little skepticism is always in order—Proust after all stressed that his recalls involved a theory not a record of the past. Kierkegaard observed that while life must be lived forward we seek to understand it by looking backwards. Our retrospective efforts involve linear stories in which discrete events are tied together in neat sense-making packages,—downplaying the role of chance, memory failures, disconnection and other possible interpretations. The dots of life are there, but is the ex post-facto pattern? To what extent does the coherence and explanation lie (but hopefully not lie too badly) in the imposed interpretation, not in the facts such as they are believed to be. The facts of course are unknowable absent a method and conceptual framework for knowing. Yet as Dmitri Shalin (2010) observes personal characteristics and experiences can hardly be ignored in their affect on the work produced, even as we may be only vaguely aware of them.
My interest in surveillance was affected by growing up in Hollywood during the cold war when every little boy wanted to be the suspicious sheriff of the western movie with the white hat, or the square jawed G-man with the fedora watching from the shadows of a comic book. Surveillance is likely to be of particular interest to those whose upbringing involved a stern disciplinarian who stressed the importance of liking what you see when you look in the mirror the morning after.
There are other more distant influences, or at least connections, that sparked imagination–being in a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department; having a relative who worked closely with the director of the CIA in the early 1970s and a distant English relative who was George Orwell's first publisher. With respect to young adult experiences—it was a dark and stormy day in the early 1960s at the Russian-Polish border when I first heard the words, "your papers" (there was no please in the gruff command.) I was held for half a day's interrogation in a windowless room—without explanation or cause by persons of whom it could not charitably be said English was their second (or any) language.—Call for Mr. F. Kafka on the hotline. My interest in surveillance was furthered on that trip (part of a year spent traveling around the world) by finding an electronic bug in the Moscow hotel, the clumsy efforts of a spy in-training assigned to our Intourist tour group and the difficulty in finding accurate street maps.
While all persons are experienced as subjects of surveillance, this seems more poignant when students or practitioners of the topic are themselves the targets. Consider the involuntary participant observation experiences of surveillance scholars John Gilliom (2001) and James Rule (1993.) In an epilogue to his study of the surveillance of welfare recipients Gilliom details a disquieting search (complete with a black helicopter) of his rural home and land for marijuana cultivation based on an imprecisely drawn warrant (marijuana was being grown in a nearby federal forest.) Rule was wrongly singled out and detained in a New York airport after a search by a drug-sniffing dog. His flight from Europe had originated in Pakistan. The previous passenger in Rule's seat had apparently left drug residue available for olfactory discovery.
With respect to my own experiences, it was easy to contrast the USSR with the presumably free society of the United States. I took a late 1950s, high school civics perspective to the Soviet encounters. I thought of surveillance in cold war and political terms as an unwelcome activity by a repressive state.
However, as a graduate student and professor in Berkeley and Cambridge in the next decade I came to appreciate surveillance as a fundamental social process characteristic of all societies—both functional and risky. The practice cut across institutions; individuals in interaction; the interaction of organizations with each other; and the public and private sectors. Surveillance was neither good nor bad, but context and comportment made it so. It was as David Lyon (1994) has observed Janus-headed and more.
In the classroom my studies were posing questions and presenting perspectives that involved surveillance, although the term was rarely used. In studying the creation and presentation of social reality, it was clear that things are often not as they appear, that rule breaking and rule enforcement could be intricately interwoven; that deception and covert information collection were common; and that information used by large organizations was becoming an ever more important social resource, paralleling,—sometimes surpassing, and often intertwined with class, status and power. The capillaries of computerization and other new surveillance and communication tools that would rapidly expand in the next decades were beginning to be visible. At the time however, few saw information changes as being as potentially impactful as the invention of the steam engine, the railroad, the telegraph, the auto or the airplane. My first graduate student paper written for Professor Erving Goffman was on passing among blacks. I became interested in issues of identity and in the formal records used for constructing it which ironically might also offer space for undermining official categories of identification.
Professor Erving Goffman offered an incipient sociology of personal information emphasizing the rules and contingencies around the discovery and protection of such information. At the time of the course he was working on the book which would become Stigma (1964.) Professor S.M. Lipset offered a model for understanding the social requisites and correlates of democracy and the enduring presence of inequality tied to social stratification. Professors Neil Smelser and Charles Glock illustrated how the flow of empirical events could be better understood and compared when broken into analytic dimensions.
Beyond the classroom, my perspective broadened as a result of personal experiences. I was active in CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) an organization dedicated at that time to integration through non-violence. After a major fundraising effort, an event occurred that severely damaged the group—our treasurer disappeared with the money. It turned out she was a police agent, as were several other disruptive members. I was shocked and angered that a peaceful democratic organization dedicated to ending racial discrimination could be a target of such police actions. Within the classroom it was widely believed that some students secretly reported on their professors and fellow students. There were also police officers out of uniform in the classes I taught at Berkeley. I recall some interesting discussions with them about role conflicts, democracy and social order and how their presence in the classroom might be affecting what other students said.
In the beginning my interest was not in surveillance, or privacy or technology (especially not the latter—given sociology's party line aversion to any whiff of technological determinism), but in broader questions involving the nature of social order and in the factors associated with a democratic society. Modern society came increasingly to rely on inter-dependent, formal agencies beyond the more informal mechanisms characteristic of pre-industrial and pre-urban homogenous societies. The police as the most visible and symbolic applied agents of the state play a key institutional role in social control with their resources to support or undermine democratic ideals. Democratic orders were indeed fragile and abusive surveillance was hardly restricted to authoritarian and totalitarian states. Yates' question ("what if the church and the state are the mob that howls at the door?") was more than rhetorical.
This received greater public awareness following Watergate and the release of reports by the Church Committee (U.S. Congress 1976) and the Rockefeller Commission 1975) and there has been much subsequent research ( e.g., Donner 1980, and more recently Cunningham 2003; Earl 2011; Starr, Fernandez, and Scholl, 2011.) The experiences above built on those in high school and undergraduate classes. In Los Angeles in high school I took a speech/debate class and won an oratory contest held at Beverly Hills High School. My teacher Mr. Day Hanks wrote in my year book: "this boy could really move an audience with the power to thrill, quicken and compel." I was most pleased and wore the medal from the contest alongside others from sports—as advertisements for the well-rounded person I wanted to be viewed as. Concision, colorful examples and contrasts, metaphor, aphorism, repetition, poetics, a strong confident voice, humor and attention to timing in delivery were strong tools for getting your point across. At about that time I also encountered the early self-help book, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I uncritically saw oratory and interaction techniques as exciting tools to make things happen. It then never occurred to me that those things might be horrific and that words were tools just like steam engines that could drive turbines but could also explode.
As smog continued to engulf Los Angeles, that naiveté changed at UCLA, in a collective behavior class with Ralph Turner where I encountered the Lees (1939) wonderful book on propaganda, read Packard's book (1957) The Hidden Persuaders, and the downer of the summer of 1959—Nevil Shute's apocalyptic On the Beach.
I saw what demagogues could do and how emotion could overcome careful thought, whether in politics or sales. I did my master's thesis on Father Coughlin who was among the first US demagogues to effectively use national radio. That led to my life long interest in manipulation, trickery, deception and authenticity and in the double edged (and more) potentials of any tool.
I spent my first decade of research studying morally suspect and often illegal state surveillance against non-violent and generally non-criminal protest groups (Marx 1974, 1979.) As the 1960s and early 1970s protest movements receded, surveillance for other uses expanded. Innovative forms were directed at white collar offences such as corruption, fencing, fraud, vice and police abuse. Because such violations are often consensual or may involve profound power inequalities they are more difficult to discover and prosecute. A congressman caught taking a bribe on a hidden video offered a strong new form of evidence.
A more equitable, science and technology based enforcement ethos emerged for the FBI and other agencies following the death of J. Edgar Hoover and new federal funding for local police efforts. (Marx 1988) This involved a blending of traditional undercover means with the latest in bugging, video and tracking tools; computers to identify subjects and to document their activities and networks; and emerging technical forms of forensics such as DNA and other patterns of identification and evidence. Surveillance was clearly changing in response to new social conditions and the availability of new technologies.
While hardly a flag waver for the covert arts, I increasingly came to see them as necessary in certain settings. Using surveillance against a suspected corrupt politician, fraudulent contractor, or rapist was very different from using it against nuns who were peace activists or blacks demanding the right to vote or sit at a lunch counter. Democracy could be threatened by extremist political groups. National security has always involved intelligence gathering. Surveillance by government was clearly necessary when legitimated and limited by policy, law and ethics. It could be as irresponsible not to use it, as to use it wrongly,—even as the obvious risk of government abuses remained. Dastardly government deeds done in the dark hardly require sophisticated technology. However, the appearance of ever more powerful techniques offered new temptations for users and challenges for regulators.
As the year 1984 approached there was much public discussion about whether we were well on the way to George Orwell's dystopia. In a paper written for a Council of Europe conference in Strasbourg I asked how close we were to the society Orwell had described. I examined various social indicators to assess this (Marx 1986.)
Contrary to Orwell, on most conventional measures such as of social participation, social mobility, the presence of non-state voluntary organizations, literacy, access to and use of diverse communication tools, knowledge of foreign languages and attitudes toward civil liberties and minorities) society had moved in an opposite direction from the society he imagined and from the year 1948 when the book was finished.
Orwell was a better prognosticator in his treatment of language and culture (e.g., newspeak, public relations, self-inhibitions created by fear of censorship and uncertainty about being observed.)
Furthermore, the image of the boot on the human face and the reappearance of state violence the book described did not in general apply, something Huxley noted in a 1948 letter to his former student:
Dear Mr. Orwell: Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. (Smith 1969)Orwell's prognostication failures would be cause for celebration were it not for the fact that new and potentially repressive (if non-violent in conventional meaning), social forms and technologies were rapidly proliferating. Softer, low visibility, engineered, connected and embedded domestic forms were clearly in ascendance. This swept across the society, far beyond criminal justice or the military where many of the tactics originated and were first used.
A great deal was going on in the mid-1980s with the arrival of ever more powerful and seemingly omniscient, omnipresent knowledge machines. Consider video cameras; drug testing; computer documentation, discoveries, predictions and networks; location and communication monitoring; DNA analysis and the many other new forms the current volume so richly documents.
Violent and nonviolent forms of social control were uncoupled, with the latter increasing in importance. Over recent decades subtle, seemingly less coercive, forms of control have emerged within societies that have not become less democratic and in which the state makes less use of domestic violence. Threats to privacy and liberty are not limited to the use of force, or to state power, and indeed they may appear in the service of benign ends. It is important to examine control by other means, and by users other than the state—whether organizations or individuals.
Partly as a result of Orwell, the image of an all-powerful repressive state comes easily to Americans, whereas the image of powerful and repressive private groups does not. 1984 focused attention only on the actions of the nefarious state (which had taken over the private sector.) Yet today the private sector has the same technologies as government and in many ways is subject to fewer restrictions—whether in the treatment of workers or consumers. Some even think it has taken over the government instead.
It was necessary to go beyond the association of surveillance only with spies, police, political abuses and the state. To do that required a comprehensive set of content neutral concepts to rein in the rich variation and social and moral complexity, paradoxes and contradictions of the topic. Explanation and evaluation required a common language for the identification and measurement of surveillance's fundamental properties and contexts. In analyzing this I drew from Jim Rule's work. I met Rule shortly after I began teaching at Harvard while he was working on his PhD thesis. That prescient 1969 volume published in 1973 as Private Lives and Public Surveillance was the first scholarly book to empirically examine the social implications of the computer databases that large organizations had started to use.
Such databases could be conceptually linked with undercover and other emerging tools as part of the new surveillance. With their invisibility and the absence of subject consent, computers as electronic informants are similar in some ways to police informers and infiltrators, if more passive (Marx and Reichman 1984.) Yet they also went beyond the latter in their potential to not only control, but to better serve citizens—for example with respect to health and welfare services. Computer matching could identify citizens not receiving benefits they are entitled to, as well as those receiving them erroneously or fraudulently. The new information flows could weaken, blur or strengthen traditional borders of many kinds as well as create new borders of inclusion and exclusion (Marx 2005.)
The 1980s was an exciting time to be considering these issues and I profited from discussions with many other persons, in particular Egon Bittner, Stan Cohen, Bob Fogelson, Carl Klockars, Peter Manning and my students Nancy Reichman, Jay Wachtel and Chuck Wexler.
The forms that appeared in the later 20th century were distinct but they also shared certain key attributes and, because they are a variant of a broader social phenomenon, they share elements with non-technological forms. The social analyst can help us see this by offering constructs that separate what appears to be connected and by connecting what appears to be separate.
In the early 1980s I began empirical studies of computer matching and profiling, location and work monitoring and wrote public policy op-ed articles on topics such as drug testing, DNA analysis, credit reports, Caller-Id, manners and new communication means and video surveillance. While substantively distinct, these forms also shared certain characteristics.
Looking across institutions brought me away from the formal organization called police to the function called policing and back to the broader questions about modes and means of social ordering (or in current parlance governance) that my graduate education began with.
I had an abundance of facts that called out for more systematic organization in order to locate similarities and differences. A framework that went beyond newspaper descriptions and the shoot from the lip rhetoric of those strongly favoring or opposing the new forms without detailed analysis was needed.
My goal, pursued over the next decades, became the creation of a conceptual map for the collection, analysis and application of personal data. In doing this I was helped a great deal by colleagues at conferences I organized on the new surveillance at the University of Colorado (1995) and Harvey Mudd College (2008.) A conceptual introduction to the Mudd conference and paper abstracts are at http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/witsabstracts.html.
The question was not as many people initially ask, "is surveillance good or bad?", but rather "what concepts are needed to capture the fundamental surveillance structures and processes across diverse tools and settings in order to make better comparative statements (whether across tools, institutions or countries)?" We can then ask, "what are the facts?", "what are the values?", "where is society headed?", and "how can we differentiate appropriate from inappropriate uses?" In the appendix to an early paper on privacy and technology (http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/privantt.html.) I lnisted almost 100 related questions the topic raises. Some examples of the conceptual approach are in Marx 2002, 2006 and forthcoming.
The overarching concept of the new surveillance (briefly discussed below) was a first step. Viewing the separate technologies with overlapping characteristics as an ideal type offered a way to think about broad changes in society. Identifying the major dimensions of surveillance could provide a means to contrast the different tools and to actually measure where, and the extent to which, changes were (or might be) occurring in social organization and behavior and to see more clearly the implications for liberty, privacy and life chances.
In the beginning there is the concept. Among areas that need to be charted are the characteristics of the social structures that organize the behavior; the characteristics of the means used; of the kind and form of the data collected (e.g., public, personal, private, sensitive, intimate or as text, audio or visual); of the goals (e.g., management, protection, documentation, strategic planning, ritual, entertainment); of the conditions of collection, data security, access and use—factors significantly defined by normative or rule expectations, whether involving ethics, laws, policies, manners and of course the array of consequences that may result. The relative power of agents and subjects is a key factor in conditioning the kinds of rules and the extent to which they are followed. Finally concepts are needed that deal with culture as it gives meaning to the experience of being watched or a watcher. The narratives or discourses that explain surveillance vary by context and place. For example in some countries the technologies may be presented as a sign of modernization, in others as simply another tool of the benevolent welfare state or in times of crisis as a weapon against internal and external enemies and for consumers as a sign that they care and are responsible and as status symbols.
At the most general level surveillance of humans (which is often, but need not be synonymous with human surveillance) can be defined as regard or attendance to a person or to factors presumed to be associated with a person. This can involve non-strategic surveillance—the routine, auto-pilot, semi-conscious, often even instinctual awareness in which our sense receptors are at the ready, constantly receiving inputs from whatever is in perceptual range. Smelling smoke or hearing a noise that might or might not be a car's backfire are examples.
This contrasts with the strategic surveillance which involves a conscious strategy—often in an adversarial and inquisitorial context to gather information. Within the strategic form we can distinguish traditional from the new surveillance. The latter is at the core of contemporary concerns. Traditional surveillance is limited. It relies on the unaided senses and was characteristic of pre-industrial societies—information tended to stay local, compartmentalized, unshared and was often unrecorded, or if kept, difficult to retrieve and analyze in depth.
In contrast, the new surveillance involves scrutiny of individuals, groups and contexts through the use of technical means to extract or create information. This means the ability to go beyond what is offered to the unaided senses and minds or is voluntarily reported. The new surveillance is central to the emergence of a surveillance society with its extensive and intensive (and often remote, embedded) data collection, analysis and networks.
At the ideal-typical extreme we would see the maximum security society (which we are far from, but perhaps moving closer to.) Such a society is composed of a series of sub-societies: a hard engineered society; a soft and seductive engineered society; a dossier society; an actuarial society; a transparent society; a self-monitored society; a suspicious society; a networked society of ambient and ubiquitous sensors in constant communication; a safe and secure society with attenuated tolerance for risk; a "who are you society?" of protean identities both asserted by, and imposed upon, individuals; and a "where are you, where have you been and who else is there?" society of documented mobility, activity and location.
Regardless of whether we are dealing with traditional or the new surveillance, some common classificatory notions can be applied. In the case of surveillance social structures for example we can identify the surveillance agent (whether as watcher/observer/seeker/inspector/auditor/tester), while the person about whom information is sought or reported is the surveillance subject. The agent role can be further separated into the sponsor, data collector and initial or secondary user.
Many contemporary concerns over surveillance involve the practices of large organizations relative to employees, clients or the public. Organizational surveillance is distinct from the non-organizational surveillance carried about by individuals. At the organizational level formal surveillance involves a constituency. Organizations have varying degrees of internal and external surveillance. Erving Goffman (1961) has identified many kinds of employee or inmate monitoring, such as within "total institutions."
Within an organization internal constituency surveillance (scrutiny of insiders) contrasts with external constituency surveillance (attending to outsiders such as customers, patients, travelers.) External non-constituency surveillance involves organizations monitoring their broader environment in watching other organizations and social trends. The rapidly growing, understudied field of business intelligence fits here.
Non-organizational surveillance, in which an individual watches another individual or an organization (whether for protection, strategic or prurient reasons) apart from a formal organizational role, is another major form. It may involve role relationship surveillance as with family members (parents and children, the suspicious spouse) or friends looking out for and at each other (e.g., monitoring location through a cell phone.) Or it can involve non-role relationship surveillance—as with the free-floating activities of the voyeur whose watching is unconnected to a legitimate role.
Agent-initiated surveillance, which is particularly characteristic of compliance checks such as an inspection of a truck or a boat, can be differentiated from subject-initiated surveillance. The agent and subject of surveillance merge with self-surveillance—where individuals watch themselves (a deterrence and/or prevention goal found with many uses.) Self-monitoring can be intertwined with an external surveillance agent in the form of parallel or co-surveillance. This is the case for example with remote health monitoring in which both the monitored person and a health agency simultaneously receive signals about the subject.
In the above case co-surveillance is non-reciprocal with personal data going from the watched to the watcher (e.g., employers, merchants, doctors, teachers, parents) and tends to reflect power and resources differences. In contrast, reciprocal surveillance is by definition bi-directional, as with social networking sites. But reciprocal, need not mean equal. Surveillance that is reciprocal may be asymmetrical or symmetrical. In a democratic society citizens and government engage in reciprocal but distinct and shifting forms and degrees of mutual surveillance.
These questions draw attention to who is entitled to and/or able to play the agent role and who is the subject? New tools may bring increased democratization (or a better term—equalization) as with readily available cell phone cameras and internet access or the tools may be restricted as with access to satellites, private databases and sophisticated data mining.
A measure of democracy is the extent of restrictions on and mandatory requirements for information flows across actors and sectors. For example, what is the ratio over time of what governments and large organizations are expected to (or may) reveal about themselves (e.g., freedom of information and truth in advertizing laws and policies, conflict of interest statements) and what citizens are expected to reveal about themselves to governments and large organizations. A number of dimensions of this are analyzed in Marx (2011.) Contrast the extremes of a totalitarian government which must reveal nothing to citizens—who must reveal all to government, with the unrealistic case of a fully open government which must reveal all to citizens who in turn reveal only what they choose to government. An emphasis on structure implies that the topic is static and fixed at one point in time, yet surveillance also needs to be viewed as a fluid, ongoing process involving interaction, strategic calculations and negotiations over time. Among major processes are the softening of surveillance; efforts to create the myth of surveillance (which can involve generating fears supportive of turning to a technical solution and claiming that the solution is more effective than it is); and the monetarization of personal data so it can be sold to marketers, governments and individuals and the commodification of surveillance in which it (or protection from it) become products to be purchased; and various techniques of neutralization. The latter are strategic moves by which subjects of surveillance seek to subvert the collection of personal information such as direct refusal, discovery, avoidance, switching, distorting, counter-surveillance, cooperation, blocking, and masking. Equivalent counter neutralization moves by agents are also present.
Another way to think about process is to consider the links between the distinct activities covered by the umbrella term surveillance. The most common meaning refers to some act of data collection, but in fact this must be located within a broader system of connected activities.
Once surveillance is viewed as an appropriate means, discrete units of action may be identified that implicitly answer different questions and involve distinct goals. These can be thought of as strips of behavior. Seven kinds of activity conceived as strips that follow each other in logical order can be noted.
The strips are temporally, conceptually, empirically and often spatially distinct. They include: tool selection; subject selection; collection; processing/analysis; interpretation; uses/action; and data fate (e.g., secondary users, destroyed, sealed, restricted or made public.) Considered together these strips constitute the surveillance occasion and offer a way to bound a given application.
The "career" of a particular surveillance tool may also be tracked as it emerges and then may diffuse —whether in a jagged or in a more linear direction. In the case of the latter this may be through surveillance creep or gallop, often displacing other means along the way and bringing new goals and users. There may also be surveillance constriction as a new, unregulated tactic becomes subject to limitations and even prohibitions. Changes in surveillance slack, a measure of the gap between the potential of a technology and its degree of application, may also be charted.
An Emerging Field
The field of surveillance studies came to increased public and academic attention after 9/11. (Monaghan 2006.) But the topic in its modern form has been of interest to scholars at least since the 1950s. This is related to greater awareness of the human rights abuses of colonialism, fascism, and communism, anti-democratic behavior within democratic societies, the literary work of Huxley, Orwell and Kafka and the appearance of computers and other new technologies with their profound implications for social behavior, organization and societies.
Foucault (although writing about earlier centuries) is certainly the dominant grandfather of contemporary studies and further in the background are Taylor, Weber, Nietzsche, Marx, Bentham, Rousseau and Hobbes; and of course even further back the watchful and potentially wrathful (although also sometimes loving and protective) eye of the Biblical God of the old testament.
What were those interested in the topic reading at mid-century and in the following several decades? In the 1960s The Who sang "talkin' about my generation." While I can't speak for others, neither are these observations only reflective of my experience.
I will note the kinds of literature the cohort who entered social science graduate schools from the 1960s into the 1980s were likely reading. From the 1950s to the early 1980s the ardor of the surveillance studies or privacy bibliophile could be easily and responsibly sated. That satiation was provided by journalists Barth (1951) and Packer (1964), legal scholars Samuel Dash, R. Schwartz, and K. Knowlton (1959) and Arthur Miller (1971), political scientist Alan Westin (1967), and sociologists Edward Shils (1956), Rose Coser (1961), Barry Schwartz (1968), Stanton Wheeler (1969) and Jim Rule (1973.) In the early 1980s attention to the topic increased with work such as that by journalist David Burnham (1983), philosophers Sissela Bok (1978, 1982) and Fred Schoenman (1984), and sociologist Ken Laudon (1986.) A small social and environmental psychology literature also existed (Altman 1975; Margulis 1977; Ingram 1978.) In addition, some classic law articles reviewed cases and asserted central principles or values. (Fried 1968; Bloustein 1979; Gavison 1980.)
The modest amount of scholarly and media attention to the topic in that early period has been replaced by a continuing flood of attention —see summaries of recent literature in Marx and Muschert 2007, Lyon 2007 and the articles in recent edited collections such as Zureik and Salter 2005; Haggerty and Ericson 2006; Lyon 2006; Monahan 2006; Norris and Wilson 2006; Staples 2007; Hier and Greenberg 2007, 2009; Leman-Langlois 2008; Kerr et al 2009; Wall 2009; Hempel et al 2010; Zureik et al 2010. The growth involves many fields: philosophy, sociology, criminology, social psychology, political science, geography, law, architecture/planning, history, economics, communications, cultural studies, computer, public administration, public health, business, and science, technology and society studies.
How does the emerging field of surveillance studies compare to other fields preceded by an adjective? Social studies of surveillance start with an empirical topic,—that is different from beginning with a research question, theory or method. The focus on a kind of behavior necessarily calls for breadth and crosses disciplines, institutions, methods and places. This catholicity is furthered because there is no formal organization for surveillance studies, unlike for the established disciplines and many other studies fields. This gives the field egalitarian openness, energy, and contemporaniety and the ability to incorporate rapid changes and new ideas. Fields with more established cultures and formal gatekeepers vigilantly patrolling their intellectual borders are more prone to ossification. This openness is a source of the field's strength and energy. Yet it can also be seen as a source of weakness—-the field is diffuse, scholars lack agreement on many important issues and knowledge is not very cumulative.
The field's openness harks back to 19th century generalists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber and Georg Simmel who looked broadly across areas to understand the big changes associated with modernization. They considered social change from historical, economic, social, legal and cultural perspectives. Today, specialization is hardly in danger of being replaced, nor should it be. Yet surveillance studies in focusing on substantive topics in their richness and in bringing perspectives and findings from various fields together has an important role to play.
The area is so far best characterized as multi-disciplinary rather than inter-disciplinary. In an inter-disciplinary field the distinct ideas and levels of analysis from various disciplines are integrated, rather than being applied in a parallel fashion. Illustrative of the former would be finding that workers of a particular personality type respond positively (in terms of attitude and productivity) to intensive work monitoring, while those with a different personality respond in an opposite fashion, showing how concepts from geography can inform the ethical, legal and popular culture labeling of places (whether physical or cyber) as public or private, or demonstrating how the different historical experience of Europe relative to the United States led to the former's greater concern and different policies over private sector surveillance as against that of government, while in the United States that pattern was reversed.
Surveillance studies as a growing epistemic community is unlike most other "studies" fields. It is not based on a geographical region, ethnicity, gender or life style (e.g., as with urban or women's studies.) Nor is it based on a single disciplinary, theoretical or methodological perspective (e.g., sociology, post-modernism or survey research.) Rather it is based on a family of behaviors all dealing in some way with information about the individual (whether uniquely identified or not) or about groups. The social significance of the activity is in crossing or failing to cross the borders of the person—factors which can be central to life chances, self-concept and democracy. Such activity also defines and can redefine what the borders of personhood are.
The field overlaps several related areas. It shares with technology and society studies an interest in the social impacts of (and upon) tools, but is restricted to one class of tool defined by its information function. It shares an interest in surveillance technology with many fields such as engineering and computer and forensic science, but it is concerned with the social and cultural, not the technical elements. Some of the forms studied do not even involve technical hardware (e.g., social technologies such as reading lips, facial expressions and body language.) By far the largest number and methodologically most sophisticated studies preceded by the adjective surveillance are in the area of public health. Foucault (1986) analyzes power and the mapping of the plague in the 17th century as a precursor to modern surveillance. The epidemiological studies of disease and epidemics however reflect only one of many strands in studies surveillance.
The field also overlaps some of the topical interests of management information, library science and criminal justice studies, but it is decidedly not a policy, applied or managerial field. While it tends to share value concerns with civil liberties, privacy and human rights studies, most researchers begin with the values and norms of scholarship in order to advance knowledge, rather than beginning with policy, reform or activism.
Social studies of surveillance share with global studies an interest in the causes and consequences of increased world interdependence and cooperation; in the standardization of techniques and policies, new trans-border organizations; and in cross border flows of data and persons. Relative to most study fields it is (and should be) more international with respect to its practitioners and its subject matter.
The journal and web resource Surveillance and Society has editors and advisors across western societies. The Canadian New Transparency and the European Living in Surveillance Societies projects also have participants from many countries—although English is the dominant language which tilts toward an over-representation of Anglo-phone scholars and few comparative studies. Any generalizations from the English speaking world to the world must be empirically grounded—not to mention the need to be aware of differences between (and within) English speaking countries. More work has been done in western than in eastern Europe and little is available on other countries. An important question is the extent to which we are moving toward a pretty uniform world surveillance society driven by a common ethos, problems, and technology developed in Western societies—as against a commonality based on convergence and amalgamation, or will we see a world of uncommonality where local differences in narratives and uses remain strong even as common technologies are adopted?
The field departs from global studies in the many non-global aspects it is concerned with. Much scrutinizing is at the local level and is strongly influenced by the particular cultural context—whether involving parents and children, friends, workers or shoppers and society's with democratic or authoritarian traditions. Across countries the local language used to justify or challenge a tactic may reflect different value assumptions, priorities and models of society e.g.,—the welfare state, the threatened state, the religious state, the libertarian state. Social studies of surveillance are university based and bound by norms of scholarship involving logic, method, awareness of prior research, evidence and civility. These norms prescribe fairness and objectivity in the conduct of research; listening carefully to those we disagree with; and continually reflecting on the positions we hold. Value neutrality is necessary for reasons of principle and of strategic legitimacy.
The topic however does have great moral bite and scholars are drawn to it because they are concerned over its implications for the kind of society we are, are becoming or might become, as technology and changing life conditions alter the crossing of personal and group informamaskingtion borders.
Perhaps to a greater degree than for most fields, the social issues driving researchers are manifest (e.g., autonomy, fairness, privacy and transparency.)These value concerns are not easily characterized in conventional terms as liberal or conservative and there are conflicting legitimate goals (e.g., between the rights of the individual and the needs of the community, the desire to be left alone and to be noticed, rights to privacy and to information.) A concern with underdogs and the negative aspects of inequality is present, but so too is awareness of the interconnected parts of the social order which brings cautiousness about social change introduced too quickly and without adequate discussion. Genuine informed consent and level playing fields are issues shared across most conflicting ideologies. An overarching value in much research is the Kantian idea of respect for the dignity of the person and the related factor of respect for the social and procedural conditions that foster fair treatment, democracy and a civil society.
After so little scholarly interest in the field for so long, the insights and sustained and focused intellectual energy reflected in this volume are most welcome! This book fills a need. While the last decade has seen many studies of surveillance, there has been little work seeking to define and present the broad field of surveillance studies and to create an empirical knowledge base. The game has many players. This comprehensive handbook by leading scholars, in offering an introduction, mapping and directions for future research provides a field for them to play on. Scholars as well as computers need platforms.
The book serves as a reminder that while they (whether the state, commercial interests or new, expanding public-private hybrid forms) are watching us, we are watching them. Surveillance studies have an important role to play in publicizing what is happening or might happen, ways of thinking about this and what is at stake. Making surveillance more visible and understandable hardly guarantees a just and accountable society, but it is surely a necessary condition for one.
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