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

This course provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of surveillance studies.

Surveillance technologies and practices form an increasingly familiar part of our daily lives: data are made and shared as we commute, work, consume and browse. And yet, we know very little about how surveillance operates and how the data these systems produce are used to positively and negatively structure our social experiences, in terms of how we are viewed and treated by other actors and agencies. Personal data are a means of knowledge and power and they are put to many different ends, from governing large populations to individual constructions of identity.

This course considers some of the key historical events, organisational aspirations and cultural factors responsible for the development of surveillance societies. Students will learn about the political, social, legal and ethical dimensions and implications of mass surveillance, specifically by drawing on some of the major theories in surveillance studies. We explore the interests and values underpinning the expansion of surveillance, the types of regulatory frameworks governing surveillance and the complex forms of social relations mediating surveillance processes. We will focus on various research examples to develop our knowledge and understanding of the social drivers and impacts of surveillance.

The four main questions informing our coverage are:

1. What social and historical circumstances have generated the surveillance society?

2. How did mass surveillance of everyday life become so normal?

3. What purposes and interests does surveillance serve?

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

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. identify the social and historical factors responsible for the intensification of surveillance;
  2. evaluate the diverse social impacts of surveillance processes;
  3. analyse the merits of concepts, theories and methods used by researchers to explain surveillance practices and policies; and
  4. discuss their learning in relation to surveillance both orally and in writing.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Book review, 2000 words (30) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Seminar participation (15) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. Synthesis examination, 3 hours plus 15 minutes reading time (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  4. Group presentation: Film analysis, 20 mins (15) [LO 3,4]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 35 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of workshops, and 11 hours of student-led seminars; and
b) 95 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 12 units of 1000 level Sociology (SOCY) or Criminology (CRIM) courses, or with permission from the course convenor. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed SOCY6064.

Prescribed Texts


Assumed Knowledge

A basic understanding of sociological and/or criminological thinking and approaches.




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
2020 $3120
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4800
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.

Summer Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
1616 17 Jan 2022 21 Jan 2022 21 Jan 2022 04 Feb 2022 In Person View

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