Do modern surveillance systems represent new systems of power?

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Do modern surveillance systems represent

new systems of power?

It has been suggested by various writers that modern surveillance systems do indeed represent a new system of power. In this essay, the previous systems of power that were in place will be discussed, and how surveillance systems have developed so that they can be seen as a new system of power. The way in which surveillance has been utilized over time is important to understand; this will also be examined.

        Firstly, a clear definition of what is meant, loosely, surveillance means (Abercrombie et al 2000) ‘keeping watch over,’ ‘guarding’ or supervising,’ however, in sociology, surveillance has a more conceptual meaning and refers to the relationship between information and power. Surveillance systems are more often than not, used for the purpose of corporate companies, the state or an individual, the object that is generally been surveyed is an individual or organisation. Often, it is the nation state that conducts the surveillance, such as keeping information on the citizens of the nation state. It has previously been suggested (Lyon 1994) that there is a distinct relationship between information and power. As the use of surveillance increases, the amount of information available increases, thus the amount of information available to individual/groups/nations, which then increases the amount of power that is obtainable.

        In society today, surveillance often takes the form of closed circuit television (CCTV), in Britain alone, it is estimated that there are 2.5million CCTV cameras in Britain alone (Guardian 2002) and the numbers are growing. CCTV can take two forms, overt and covert, more often than not, CCTV is overt. Other forms of surveillance that are less evident are the monitoring of consumer patterns, which involves tracking the use of credit cards and loyalty cards, Foucault (1969 argued that knowledge is a means of ‘keeping tabs’ on people and thus having power over them. These methods of ‘keeping tabs’ have also been referred to as forms of  ‘hyper-surveillant control;’ Boggard (1996) originally coined the term hyper-surveillant control. As a definition, hyper-surveillant control means,

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“Not just an intensification of surveillance, but the effort to push surveillance to the absolute limit.”

 Boggard was referring to modern day society and included all types of surveillance, including the previously discussed and methods of surveillance, which are more recent, including monitoring consumption patterns when using credit or debit cards. When people use credit or debit cards, banks can monitor where, when, time, what they bought, and all this information is logged and stored. Moreover, every time a form is completed, information is given on all aspects of a person’s life, once the form has been completed, the individual ...

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