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Surveillance and Communication

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Over the past decades, surveillance has become an integral part of society and the everyday life of individuals. To many, the surveillance society has to do with the accelerated uses of surveillance cameras by the police, shopping malls, workplaces, and private citizens. However, the electronic eyes of cameras are but one of many important aspects of the surveillance society. In particular, surveillance has become intrinsic to our digitally mediated communication. Many are constantly engaged in forms of social surveillance as they observe what friends, family, celebrities, love interests, and acquaintances are up to on social media. In turn, they also leave trails of digital footprints that may be collected and analyzed by governments, businesses, or hackers. The imperceptible nature of this new surveillance raises some pressing concerns about our digital lives as our data doubles increasingly represent and define us in lieu of our embodied selves. It is thus vital for students and scholars in the field of communication to address surveillance issues. This article takes up the task of providing an overview of the most relevant work on surveillance for the field of communication. The article is structured in five parts. First, it introduces the reader to general overview texts of surveillance studies, including its topics, theoretical diversity, and its history. Second, the ideas of the surveillance society and surveillance cultures are taken up, as they are often understood to be central to surveillance studies’ undertakings and politics. Third, the article presents the reader with core surveillance theories and their sources of inspiration. It points to the panopticon, which has been a dominant but also controversial concept, but mostly the bibliography suggests post-panoptic theories, which are particularly relevant to this topic and audience. The fourth section outlines a variety of themes in which surveillance of communication is being studied. Organized under the headings Tracking; Mass Surveillance; Media; and Art, Fiction, and Popular Culture, this section provides a survey in surveillance studies pertaining to communication. Fifth and finally, the article points to recurring discussions of the relevancy and understanding of privacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies : Communication
EditorsPatricia Moy
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication year29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017

    Research areas

  • Surveillance, Communication, Review, General overview, Surveillance Theory, Surveillance Culture, Surveillance Society, Tracking, Media, Privacy

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