• Offered by School of Sociology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Research
  • Course subject Sociology
  • Areas of interest Law, Sociology, Security Studies, Criminology, Human Rights

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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130 hours of total student learning time made up from: a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures, and 12 hours of tutorials; and, b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

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
2017 $3216
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
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.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
5132 19 Feb 2018 27 Feb 2018 31 Mar 2018 25 May 2018 In Person N/A

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