• Class Number 1617
  • Term Code 3220
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr Gavin Smith
    • AsPr Gavin Smith
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 17/01/2022
  • Class End Date 04/02/2022
  • Census Date 21/01/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 21/01/2022
    • AsPr Gavin Smith
SELT Survey Results

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 responded to 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 staging individual constructions of identity.

This course considers some of the key historical events, organisational aspirations and cultural factors responsible for the emergence 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 implications 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 and implications of surveillance processes;
  3. analyse the merits of concepts, theories and methods used by researchers to explain surveillance practices and policies;
  4. undertake different types of research in the surveillance studies field; and
  5. reflect on and discuss their learning in relation to processes of surveillance both orally and in writing.

Research-Led Teaching

This course draws on A/Prof Smith's 20 years experience researching and writing about surveillance relations.

Examination Material or equipment


As the course will be both general and particular in focus, I have opted for the following indicative texts:

Browne, S. (2015) Dark matters: on the surveillance of blackness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Gilliom, J. and T. Monahan (2012) SuperVision. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lyon, D. (2007) Surveillance Studies: An Overview. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

This is highly intensive, face-to-face course suited only for students with a capacity and dedication to work independently and intensively and for those with a basic familiarity with the sociological perspective.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 This session provides an overview of the various requirements and expectations for SOCY2157. We will contemplate the format and structure of the course as well as review the learning outcomes and assessment. I will introduce the key topics and issues that will be the focus of our attention, and we will also begin to think critically about what precisely surveillance is and how it tends to be popularly represented, perceived and experienced.
2 Surveillance has become a familiar feature of today's world. It is utilised in multiple contexts, by multiple users and via multiple means for the visibility it generates. Surveillance, in other words, is exploited to make spaces, bodies, objects, communications and transactions amenable to observation, and this process is increasingly done 'from a distance'. This session considers the scale, reach and sophistication of contemporary surveillance measures and it accentuates the difficulties associated with standard surveillance definitions. It ponders whether invisibility is possible in today's hyper-monitored society: that is, whether the notion of disappearance has itself disappeared.
3 Surveillance, and the relations of visibility it evokes, is not a new means of organisation; and neither is it a novel type of social practice. The systematic and architectural monitoring of populations for purposes of insight, taxation and governance date back to antiquity. But the techniques of information gathering and analysis have transformed qualitatively and quantitatively since the onset of modernity. For this reason, it is perhaps useful to distinguish between the 'old' and 'new' surveillance. In this session, we look at some of the historical factors and conditions that have heralded the surveillance society of the present period. We identify the clear link between the emergence of enlightenment values, capitalism, urbanisation, colonialism, bureaucracy, militarisation and nation-state formation, and the need for expanding surveillance infrastructures.
4 In this and the next session, we start considering some of the key theories of surveillance. We will look at the seminal literary work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. Orwell depicts surveillance in distinctly dystopic terms, portraying it as the means through which sovereign states exercise 'total' control over the minds and actions of their citizens. This focus on how conformity to ideals and ideologies is orchestrated is a theme French Philosopher, Michel Foucault, also accentuates. For Foucault, the systems of authority in modernity are founded on panoptic principles and facilitate the diffusion of spatial visibility and disciplinary power. Bodies are objectified by a gaze that renders them knowable and susceptible to expert analysis. But the gaze does merely objectify, it also subjectivates: that is to say, it operates to inscribe approved dispositions. It produces self-monitoring and obedient subjects, subjects who govern their own conduct - and the conduct of others - in accordance with prevailing values.
5 Although Orwell and Foucault’s insights have made a significant contribution to popular and scholarly understandings of surveillance, there are other theorists who perceive the 'Big Brother' and 'carceral' metaphors as inadequate descriptors of contemporary surveillance arrangements and operativity. Their ideas have been critiqued on the grounds that they do not adequately account for the impacts of computerisation, connectivity and virtuality. Thus, in this session we ponder some alternative theories of surveillance that either develop or refute the arguments of these thinkers. We can term these post-panoptic conceptualisations of surveillance, approaches which transcend the simplistic dichotomies of vision and power, visibility and vulnerability. We look at notions like 'the surveillant assemblage', 'synopticism', 'exposure', and 'liquid surveillance'. Each of these concepts provide a means to nuance the relational processes transpiring between watchers and watched.
6 This session positions practices of surveillance in a context of everyday struggles for empowerment and autonomy - and in a context of desires by some to be left unseen. Surveillance represents and means different things to people as a consequence of how they are socially situated. Moreover, surveillance practices are far from totalising, inevitable or perfect in their scope and operativity. Rather, they are continuously the subject of processes of negotiation, failure and resistance. A system, in other words, is only ever as efficacious as the sum of its social and technical parts. We contemplate some of the types of struggles that define surveillance-subject relations, from the legal and regulatory to the discursive and participatory. While institutions conventionally use surveillance to differentiate individuals into categories of desirability and suspicion that accord with their perceived social positioning and value, data sharing devices are also used by individuals for sousveillance, where the gaze is inverted upwards to expose authority figures and to hold them to account for their actions. Thus surveillance as a social practice is embedded within dialectical struggles between those who synchronously watch and are watched.
7 We move from considering theories of surveillance operativity to contexts where surveillance practices are enacted and experienced in diverse ways. This session analyses one of the most iconic surveillance technologies: the closed circuit television (CCTV) camera, and its role in monitoring urban streets. We examine how a Cold War technology that was originally employed in military contexts became so synonymous with the theatre of the street, and with what corresponding consequences for urban governance. We then move from the politics of life beneath the camera, to the operational lifeworld that is situated beyond and behind the camera lens. This enables us to reflect on how surveillance technologies get used and how they affect their overseers in a range of unintended and unseen ways. Group presentation I: Film analysis
8 In this session we explore how surveillance is used to monitor and govern consumption. It is undoubtedly the case that consumers, and wider commodity markets and flows, are now the object of sophisticated tracking techniques by various corporate and state agencies. The buying preferences and habits of individuals are assumed to reveal clues about character, motivation and social group membership, and they permit marketers to sharpen their advertising strategies. But geodemographic information is also of interest to a range of other agencies in the health, law enforcement and insurance fields. Observing consumers is a key feature of data-driven capitalism, and we examine the surveillant means through which this end is achieved, and some of the consequent effects and politics. Group presentation II: Film analysis
9 In this session we focus on the primacy of the body as a territory for surveillant attention and data sharing. Today's technologically driven and saturated world entails that instances of social interactivity between institutions and individuals increasingly occurs at a distance and through the mediation of a computer terminal and screen. As social action and relations have become more mobile and complex, bodies have become progressively susceptible to more detailed forms of monitoring, identification, measurement and classification. We contemplate some of the embodied and social consequences of bodily materials becoming biometric sources, and bodily functions and behaviours being rendered into disembodied data. In particular, we consider the rise of facial recognition technology as a surveillance tool anchored to the body and transformative of how we are identified and tracked. We also think about self-tracking practices, where digital devices are used to visualise bodily performances and physiology, and where the body is voluntarily rendered into an object of knowledge and optimisation. Group presentation III: Film analysis
10 In this session we examine what the notions of performativity and pleasure brings to understandings of surveillance relations. Many surveillance technologies and systems pivot around the practice of performance, in terms of measuring/manipulating bodily performance and stimulating/facilitating it. In this sense, surveillance devices/systems double up as conduits of control but also mediums of expression. We accentuate the ambiguity of surveillance relations by looking at how devices are used for many different ends in the contexts of work and leisure. In particular, we review surveillance research revealing the diverse ways in which acts of seeing and acts of being seen are intersubjectively experienced. Group presentation IV: Film analysis
11 In this session we explore the surveillance of childhood. Childhood is a key life stage for diverse forms of monitoring, from parents concerned about child safety and development, to marketers seeking to track the consumption patterns of young people to sharpen advertising strategies. Children also routinely participate in self-surveillance and the surveillance of their peers, especially through their use of digital devices and via gaming practices. The school is a key site in which surveillance of children becomes normalised. Schools have always been sites of measurement and disciplinary training, but there has been a recent intensification in their surveillance capacity as a result of technological advancement and moral panics attesting to child safety, teaching practices and failing socialisation programs. We will ponder the notion of the 'surveillance school' and consider the consequences of this educative structure in terms of young people being conditioned into surveillant-compliant attitudes and behaviours. Group presentation V: Film analysis
12 In this final session we consider the intricate relationship between surveillance and public health. Health is a key site for surveillance relations, with clinician-patient interactions, medical records, health prevention and epidemiology all contributing at different scales to the accumulation of biopolitical knowledge on and about populations, and leveraging of biopower. As an example, we look at how the recent coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally transformed the surveillance landscape, providing the biopolitical and political economic means for new surveillance apparatuses to be introduced and used but also for the development and normalisation of new surveillance practices. As with all surveillance relations, how technologies and programs intersect with everyday life is messy and ambivalent, with forms of care and control underpinning the operation and experience of 'dis-ease surveillance'. Group presentation VI: Film analysis

Tutorial Registration

Online via Wattle site

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Research essay 35 % 24/01/2022 1,3, 4, 5
Seminar participation 15 % * 2-5
Group presentation: film analysis 15 % * 3-5
Take-home exam 35 % 14/02/2022 1-5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Given the interactive nature of the curriculum, students taking this course are expected to attend. Students are also expected to read, as a bare minimum, each of the session core readings, actively participate in lectures and seminars and conduct at least 112 hours of independent study. This is a reading-intensive and student-led course, so you need to be prepared to invest effort and conduct self-directed study to perform well. It goes without saying that the more that you put into the course, the more you will get from it!


This course doesn't have a formal examination per se, but rather a take-home exam assessment that must be completed within a specified timeframe.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 24/01/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,3, 4, 5

Research essay

The research essay assessment incorporates LOs 1, 3, 4 and 5 and requires students to complete independent research to craft an essay in 3000 words explaining the complex factors responsible for surveillance growth and normalisation. Submissions should be double-spaced. This is a hurdle assessment.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 2-5

Seminar participation

The seminar participation assessment component incorporates LOs 2-5 and requires students to read independently and formulate critical analyses of surveillance processes as well as scholarly accounts of surveillance that are discussed in small and large groups. It requires students to critically reflect on their learning and personal experiences to contribute to academic and social understandings of surveillance. This is a hurdle assessment.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 3-5

Group presentation: film analysis

The group presentation incorporates LOs 2-5 and requires students to work and collaborate as a group in critically applying ideas and concepts from surveillance studies to analyse the content and narrative of a popular cultural surveillance film. This work will inform a 20-minute class presentation. This assessment is to last 20-minutes. This is a hurdle assessment.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 14/02/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1-5

Take-home exam

The take-home exam assessment component incorporates LOs 1-5 and requires students to conduct independent research and write, in 3000 words, a critical essay on a surveillance relation that integrates key learning from the course content such as theories, concepts and research from surveillance studies, and substantive empirical examples to consolidate the argument formulated. Submissions should be double-spaced. Late submissions will not be accepted. This is a hurdle assessment.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned electronically with feedback if required via Wattle.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Students are not permitted to re-submit assignments.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

AsPr Gavin Smith

Research Interests

Surveillance, Facial Recognition, Data Politics, The Body, Wildlife Ecology

AsPr Gavin Smith

By Appointment
By Appointment
By Appointment
AsPr Gavin Smith

Research Interests

AsPr Gavin Smith

By Appointment
By Appointment
By Appointment
AsPr Gavin Smith

Research Interests

AsPr Gavin Smith

By Appointment
By Appointment
By Appointment

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