Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life (Issues In Society)

Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life (Issues In Society)

  • Publish Date: 2001-02-01
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: David Lyon
Open University Press
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  • In what ways does contemporary surveillance reinforce social divisions?
  • How are police and consumer surveillance becoming more similar as they are automated?
  • Are we forced to choose between classical and poststructuralist approaches in explaining surveillance?
  • Why is surveillance both expanding globally and focusing more on the human body?
Surveillance Society takes a post-privacy approach to surveillance with a fresh look at the relations between technology and society. Personal data is collected from us all the time, whether we know it or not, through identity numbers, camera images, or increasingly by other means such as fingerprint and retinal scans. This book examines the constant computer-based scrutiny of ordinary daily life for citizens and consumers as they participate in contemporary societies. It argues that to understand what is happening we have to go beyond Orwellian alarms and cries for more privacy to see how such surveillance also reinforces divisions by sorting people into social categories. The issues spill over narrow policy and legal boundaries to generate responses at several levels including local consumer groups, internet activism, and international social movements. In this fascinating study, sociologies of new technology and social theories of surveillance are illustrated with examples from North America, Europe, and Pacific Asia.

David Lyon provides an invaluable text for undergraduate and postgraduate sociology courses both in social theory and in science, technology and society. It will also appeal much more widely, for example to those with an interest in politics, social control, human geography and public administration. The walls have ears and the hills have eyes, but who's got the brain? Canadian sociologist David Lyon argues that we are complicit in much of our recent loss of privacy, but that makes it no less sinister. Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life critically examines the nature and potential of monitoring technologies serving governmental and corporate interests. Part of Tim May's very smart Issues in Society series, it features a background check on the context of modern surveillance, an updated view of data-collection techniques and practices, and a projection of new political and social meanings made available through the panopticon.

Lyon rarely encrypts his work in academese, but this accessibility should not be confused with oversimplification. In just over 150 pages he has compressed countless brain-hours of analysis and speculation--few readers will be able to digest it in one sitting or even one reading. Indeed, he spends a fair amount of time poking at the simplifications of other analysts, winking at the reader with sly passages like this:

"Are there really godlike operators who can control the city using a mouse and a keyboard? Such absolute power is scarcely visible in practice. The sheer mass of data would be impossible to handle. Even in SimCity one cannot keep track of everything."

Crucial reading for anyone concerned with privacy issues, Surveillance Society restages the debate over ubiquitous monitoring and encourages deeper thinking on all sides. --Rob Lightner

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