ESRC/SSN Seminar Series

The Everyday Life of Surveillance

ESRC / Surveillance Studies Network Seminar Series

While each individual seminar will be open to a restricted number of participants, and will feature high-level speakers from the UK and abroad, the Series will be based around a core group, including the organising committee, who will attend all seminars.The organisers are looking for five or six early-career researchers to be part of the core group for the series.

Seminar Series Programm

The Organising Committee


The new ESRC / Surveillance Studies Network Seminar Series, The Everyday Life of Surveillance, will consist of six intensive transdisciplinary seminars, backed with weblogs and online discussion, to take place from April 2008 until June 2009. The preliminary programme details can be found here.Surveillance Studies is gaining increasing recognition. However, researchers, campaigners and the government are still too impressed with new technologies and new methods of surveillance, or the extension of surveillance to new areas. There remains little in-depth research on the experience of being under surveillance and the psychological, social and ethical implications of living in a society of increasingly pervasive surveillance. There need to be more linkages made with concepts such as securitization and risk. We argue that what is important about surveillance is not simply the fact that surveillance is increasingly everywhere but that surveillance is an essential critical concept in understanding contemporary society.

This seminar series aims to move beyond both alarmist talk of ‘Big Brother’ and the cynical acceptance of increasing surveillance as inevitable. It aims discuss what living in a society in which surveillance is normal means for individuals, our workplaces, homes and cities, and society as a whole, and what can be done about it. Further it aims to extend the scope of surveillance studies itself to consideration of surveillance in new areas, for example in relation to time, the future and memory, and to animals, plants and ecosystems. It will build on previous work funded by the ESRC (for example, through the e-Society programme), develop new understandings that will aid the increasing public discussion of surveillance, develop useful new research, and establish the core of a new generation of surveillance studies scholars.

We will do this with a highly directed series of seminars. Rather than simply allowing invited speakers to talk simply about subjects with which they feel comfortable, and to say the same things that are usually said, each seminar will be based on provocative position statements from the organising team. These will be produced several weeks in advance of each seminar and published on the interactive seminar series weblog. Speakers will be asked to address the positions statement as a starting point to produce a genuine debate rather than a talking shop. Their responses will also be made available for discussion on the blog.

To encourage early-career researchers, the core seminar group will be made up of the organisers and five or six competitively-selected academics in the early stages of their career.These researchers will be funded to come to all the seminars in order to broaden and deepen their thinking and enable them to develop new research. Other non-funded places will be available with priority given to further talented early-career researchers.