The Surveillance & Everyday Life Research Group
Convened by Associate Professor Peter Marks, Department of English
The intensification and diversification of surveillance in recent decades has been remarkable, with CCTV cameras, loyalty cards, body scanners, DNA swabs, RFID tags and internet cache cookies just some of the many ways in which personal information is now routinely extracted from and given by individuals at strategic transactional ‘points of contact’. Surveillance makes particular phenomena discernible and identifiable, usually in order to serve the interests of data‐hungry social and commercial institutions, who gather data and then apply complex analytical formulae and protocols in a bid to classify and sort information, label and categorize abnormalities and identify particular patterns for pre‐emptive intervention.
The steady growth of surveillance cultures correlate with wider sociohistorical changes, particularly the establishment of consumer capitalism as the dominant mode of production (and thus related supervision of workers and consumption), bureaucracy as the dominant form of institutional organization (and the related auditing this facilitates) and liberal democratic nation states as the dominant style of political administration (and the accompanying forms of security, taxation, voting and welfare management this governance requires).
Technological advancement, particularly in computer applications and related dependence, and wider cultures of risk, fear, distrust and consumption, have also proved significant in legitimating surveillance as a tool of social order, organization and popular entertainment. Although surveillance makes social action visible, the relative invisibility of surveillance as a social process has meant that many of the methods and analytical techniques utilized have become ‘naturalized’, relatively unexceptional objects and unproblematic processes in the physical and cultural fabric of everyday living.
The Surveillance and Everyday Life Research Group brings together a number of early career, mid career and distinguished scholars across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – and wider university community – to critically and collaboratively examine the everyday production and experience of surveillance, an issue of rapidly increasing social, historical, political, economic and local‐global significance.
He Loved Big Data: Utopias and a Cultural Studies of Surveillance - 26 August 2015