Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Further Details:

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture Lecture workshop 1 x 2 hour per week


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 Essay of 2,500 words  50%
Semester Assessment 1 Essay of 2,500 words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Analyse and demonstrate an awareness of how everyday life is subject to a broad variety of surveillance methods.

Crticially evaluate a range of materials relating to surveillance technologies and their implications.

Demonstrate an understanding of the socio-historical development of surveillance and to investigate a specific issue in detail.

Assess the implications of new, digital technologies and how they relate to questions of surveillance and to think about issues such as 'resistance'.


  • To explore how our lives are increasingly becoming subject to surveillance in a number of different areas, and to reflect upon the ways in which we are implicated in such processes.
  • To think through some of the critical issues related to these processes: both positive and negative elements of surveillance, as well as issues of power in relation to the subject.
  • To investigate the manifold reasons as to why surveillance has developed throughout society, and place such developments within socio-historical contexts.
  • To explore the relations between technologies of surveillance and the social context within which they emerge. In particular, to think about the relationships between an increasingly digitized landscape and a 'surveillance society'.

Brief description

The Surveillance Society will enable students to explore the range of ways in which new digital technologies are altering the boundaries between public and private, with important political and ethical implications. It will explore the ways in which we watch and are watched in contemporary society. There are many facets to this. At the broadest level there are debates (often generated by Foucauldian fears) about the increasing penetration of forms of knowledge, from market research to the emergence of vast databanks information. There is the rise of new modes of official surveillance: in our everyday lives we are surrounded by inconspicuous security cameras and 'spycams'. The concerns about the penetration of the 'private' sphere these occasion has led many to suggest that the public/private relationship as a whole is being reconfigured. And 'Reality-TV' has, it is argued, generated new forms of voyeurism (itself a topic of theorization and debate in film theory) by putting ordinary people under the 24-hour scrutiny of cameras (and microphones). Yet at the same time researchers tell of forms of resistance or seizure in response to these penetrations: people using webcams for their own purposes, using them to redefine their sense of self and their public identities.


Possible topics include:

  • Panopticism
  • The changing nature of surveillance: historical aspects
  • CCTV
  • The blurring between the 'private' and the 'public'
  • The body and surveillance
  • Web cams
  • Reality television (surveillance as entertainment)
  • Surveillance and Conspiracy
  • 9/11 and its implications
  • Resisting Surveillance
Key issues relating to these topics will be discussed during seminars. Students will be asked to engage in a variety of tasks, from group discussion, presentations as well as debate.

Reading List

Essential Reading
Lyon, D (2001) The Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life Open university press Primo search Lyon, D (ed) (2002) Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, risk and Digital Discrimination Routledge Primo search Staples, W (1997) The Culture of Surveillance Cambridge University Press Primo search
Consult For Futher Information
Caplan, J and Torpey, J (eds) (2002) Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern Word princeton university press Primo search Dandeker, C (1990) Surveillance, Power and Modernity Cambridge university press Primo search Foucault,M (1977) Discipline ans Punish Primo search Gilliom, J (2001) Overseers of the Poor: Surveillance, Resistance and the Limits of Privacy Chicago University Press Primo search Lyon, D (1994) Electronic eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society Cambridge polity Primo search Lyon, D (2003) Surveillance after September 11 Routledge Primo search Mathijs, E and Jones, J (eds) (2004) Big brother international: Format, Critics and publics Walflower press Primo search Mellucci, A (1996) Challenging Codes: Collective Action in the Information Age Cambridge university Press Primo search Norris, C and McCahill, M (eds) (1999) The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV Berg Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6