chapter  6
22 Pages

Empowered watchers or disempowered workers? The ambiguities of power within technologies of security

ByGAVIN JOHN DOUGLAS SMITH

Whilst the study of surveillance is now a growing global field, there is a distinct scarcity of empirical and theoretical attention focused on the activities and roles of those actually operating the various technologies of security in existence. This is a critical omission, as the everyday actions and behaviours of such individuals significantly affect the overall practice of surveillance, a key substantive topic assumed in much theory. Research which has been done generally follows, intentionally or inadvertently, a Foucauldian tradition emphasising the power1 of the watchers over the subjects of their gaze. Watchers of closed-circuit television (CCTV), for example, are said to be ‘empowered’ through their apparent God-like ascriptions of unhindered, anonymous, unilateral vision and asymmetrical informational knowledge about certain populations (i.e. capacity to know). They also accrue power through their subjectivised jurisdiction over the behaviour of citizens (i.e. capacity to define a situation), their positional autonomy and influence over the technological systems through which they gaze (i.e. capacity to control), and their oversight of civil order in public space (i.e. capacity to make a transformational difference).