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"We live in the Empire of the Gaze" Jay (1985). Why do you think that surveillance is increasing in modern societies and organisations?

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"We live in the Empire of the Gaze" Jay (1985). Why do you think that surveillance is increasing in modern societies and organisations? Over the past decade, the use of surveillance has increased dramatically in Western societies around the world, none more so than in Britain, which now has the largest closed-circuit television (CCTV) network in the world. There are now few places in urban Britain where you can go unobserved by CCTV, and with 2.5 million cameras across the country, it isn't hard to see why. The increase of surveillance in society in general has coincided with an increase in surveillance in the workplace as well. As well as video surveillance, many employees have to contend with the possibility of both their e-mail and phone calls being monitored. So why this huge increase in societal and organisational surveillance? In trying to answer this question I will first look at surveillance in society, and then I will discuss surveillance in organisations, whilst considering the technological advances as a possible link between the two. Before I begin to answer the question set, I think it is important to note that surveillance is nothing new. As Ball (2003) notes, "it has always been at the heart of capitalist work and organisation". For centuries people have had to identify themselves or have been the subjects of observation, but up until the twentieth century this would usually have been for highly specific purposes. ...read more.


"Privacy can no longer refer to fixed spaces." (David Lyon (1) 2002, P.3) As more and more people travel through airports and stations, have mobile phones and the use of the Internet, people on the move are increasingly likely to be the subjects of surveillance. With the new technologies has come the increasing visibility of people going about their everyday communications and actions. The case for the increase in surveillance received a boost following the events of 'September 11th' which prompted the need to plug the gaps in intelligence and security that allowed this act of terrorism to be carried out. People's concern about the possibility of another attack of global terrorism has allowed surveillance at airports especially to increase to try and identify persons with a potential risk. The use of CCTV with facial recognition, new 'smart' ID systems and upgraded communications intercepting techniques are among the few new measures that are evident at many if not all of the main Western airports. We have seen how new technologies have affected surveillance in society in general, but how have these new technologies affected surveillance in the workplace? Zuboff's 1988 work on the implications of computerisation on contemporary workplaces is a good place to start when discussing surveillance in the workplace. She notes that because of new information systems, management control is now free from the constraints of space and time and there have been increasing claims that electronic surveillance has become "a new and successful model of control." ...read more.


Many employees believe that this is just an excuse for employers to monitor them. Monitoring of employees' phone lines in call centres is often justified by saying that it is for training purposes, when employees know their employers also have ulterior motives. Employers at Powergen have been known to ring up and pretend they are customers as a way of monitoring. This situation that employees face, knowing that at any time they could be being listened to or talking to their boss, is similar to unverifiability of the gaze in Bentham's Panopticon. This is evidence of the perception that close technical monitoring takes place more because it is technologically easy than because there is any great need for it and which is where it crosses the line into unethical business practice. The same can be said for surveillance in society in general. Many people believe that there are more cameras and computers watching and monitoring us than is necessary. However, as individuals, we should have the right to walk the street without fear, and if this is aided by surveillance, then it can only be a good thing. So what does the future hold for surveillance in society and the workplace? We have already seen the huge increase in surveillance in modern societies and organisations mainly due to the advances in technology that have occurred over the last few years. Who's to say that in the near future, the 'electronic totalitarianism' described by Orwell in his book '1984' may become a reality. ...read more.

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