Exposure: Exploring the subject of surveillance information

Ball, Kirstie (2009). Exposure: Exploring the subject of surveillance information. Information, Communication and Society, 12(5) pp. 639–657.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691180802270386

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to identify a construct which may be used to frame the subjective experience of surveillance in contemporary society. The paper's central question concerns whether there is a concept to describe the experience of surveillance which can then inform empirical studies. Surveillance practice has consequences for the individual, yet surveillance studies do not have a particular take on the subject. Building on some preliminary empirical observations from the workplace, the paper suggests that the notion of 'exposure' is a useful starting point. The paper explores the range of ways in which subjects can be exposed under surveillance, and theoretically locates the concept in relation to developments in organization theory, new media theory and surveillance theory. Two observations are made which support the centrality of the 'exposure' concept within studies of surveillance. The first argument is that the body interior of the surveilled subject is more open to division, classification and scrutiny, because it is seen as a source of truth, the target of public revelation or fetish. There is now a political economy around the revelation of this interiority, which calls for a non-reductive and multi-dimensional approach to the subjective experience of surveillance. The second argument is that the nature and character of exposure are products of institutional configurations, which have consequences at the level of the individual. A research agenda is developed which will frame future work exploring the experience of surveillance.

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