Digital surveillance and place

Authored by: Ellen van Holstein

Routledge Handbook of Media Geographies

Print publication date:  October  2021
Online publication date:  October  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367482855
eBook ISBN: 9781003039068
Adobe ISBN:


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Surveillance has changed substantially over the last decades to make use of a suite of new digital technologies that have become an intricate part of people’s everyday lives. Everyday technologies, and the conveniences these offer, create a willingness to share information and to participate in surveillance, creating a culture of watching and being watched. The omnipresence of digital technologies in everyday spaces like the home, the office and the street, and the continuous surveillant potential of these technologies, radically changes spatial conceptions of privacy, risk and fear. This chapter discusses key trends in geographical research on digital surveillance technologies. It highlights the politics of surveillance and demonstrates how studies in this field have enriched understandings of relationships between digital technologies and place. The chapter offers an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of studies in surveillance, starting with the panoptic paradigm, and illustrates how approaches to the study of surveillance have turned to network and assemblage theories to keep up with technological innovations. The chapter discusses how digital technologies change how surveillance is used to influence people’s behaviors. In this chapter, I highlight recent ways of thinking about power and place in geography and emerging conceptualizations of resistance against increasingly leviathan surveillant assemblages. In the closing section I call on geographers to understand themselves as part of surveillant assemblages and to reflect on the employment of digital technologies in their work.

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