• Offered by School of Sociology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Research
  • Course subject Sociology
  • Areas of interest Sociology, Algorithms and Data, Criminology, Human Rights
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Gavin Smith
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings

This course provides students with an introduction to the field of surveillance studies from a sociological perspective. Surveillance systems and technologies have become a familiar feature of everyday life. Practices of voluntary and involuntary data sharing occur as we shop, as we access services, as we browse the web, as we communicate, and as we travel. Personal information has become a key commodity and means of exercising power.

This course introduces the key historical events, technological transformations, organisational processes and cultural practices that have established the surveillance society. It asks students to consider the social, legal, political and ethical affects of increased visibility in a networked age. This involves analysis of the interests and forces that legitimate the creep of surveillance technologies into the front and backstage regions of life. It entails looking at how people from different backgrounds experience and respond to different types of surveillance in their everyday lives. We also review the key theories and concepts in the surveillance studies field and apply these critically to empirical examples.

The four key questions informing our coverage are:

1. What social, political, economic and cultural conditions have generated the surveillance society?

2. How did surveillance become so normal in everyday life?

3. What purposes and interests does surveillance serve?

4. How does surveillance operate and with what social affects?

Overall, the course provides students with the knowledge, understanding and research skills to approach the topic of surveillance from a critically informed perspective. It equips students with the means to analyse the diverse ways in which contemporary surveillance systems operate and are socially experienced.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Identify the social, cultural, political and economic imperatives responsible for the intensification of surveillance.
  2. Critically evaluate the social impacts and resonances of surveillance processes.
  3. Explain concepts and theories used by sociologists to analyse and explain surveillance practices, processes and policies: specifically notions of risk, rationalisation, power, visibility, exposure, supervision, big data, spectacle, inequality, vulnerability and resistance.
  4. Undertake and analyse different forms of research in the surveillance studies field.
  5. Present complex ideas lucidly and critically, both orally and in writing.

Indicative Assessment

Précis and Analysis Essay (2500 words, 30%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]
Tutorial Presentation, including presentation notes/slides (10 minutes, 20%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]
Tutorial Participation (10%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]
Synoptic Exam, 3 hours (40%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]


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The workload will be one 2-hour workshop (interactive lecture) and one 1-hour student-led tutorial per week for 13 weeks. Students are expected to undertake a further 7 hours of independent study per week during the semester (total 130 hours).
Workload includes:
• Two 'Core Readings' on each topic to be completed weekly in advance of tutorial classes
• Periodic practical exercises in advance of tutorials
• Approximately 5000-words in assessed written work
• A compulsory oral presentation


Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not permitted to enrol in this course if you have previously completed SOCY2157.

Assumed Knowledge

Basic grasp of sociology and social research methods.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3054
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4368
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9712 18 Jul 2016 29 Jul 2016 31 Aug 2016 28 Oct 2016 In Person N/A

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