Categorizing the workers: electronic surveillance and social ordering in the call centre

Ball, Kirstie (2002). Categorizing the workers: electronic surveillance and social ordering in the call centre. In: Lyon, David ed. Surveillance as social sorting: privacy, risk and automated discrimination. London, UK: Routledge, pp. 201–225.



Surveillance happens to all of us, everyday, as we walk beneath street cameras, swipe cards, surf the net. Agencies are using increasingly sophisticated computer systems - especially searchable databases - to keep tabs on us at home, work and play. Once the word surveillance was reserved for police activities and intelligence gathering, now it is an unavoidable feature of everyday life.

Surveillance as Social Sorting proposes that surveillance is not simply a contemporary threat to individual freedom, but that, more insidiously, it is a powerful means of creating and reinforcing long-term social differences. As practiced today, it is actually a form of social sorting - a means of verifying identities but also of assessing risks and assigning worth. Questions of how categories are constructed therefore become significant ethical and political questions.

Bringing together contributions from North America and Europe, Surveillance as Social Sorting offers an innovative approach to the interaction between societies and their technologies. It looks at a number of examples in depth and will be an appropriate source of reference for a wide variety of courses.

Part One: Orientations 1. Surveillance as Social Sorting: Computer Codes and Mobile Bodies 2. Theorizing Surveillance: The Case of the Workplace 3. Biometrics and the Body as Information: Normative Issues of the Socio-technical Coding of the Body Part Two: Verifying Identities: Constituting Life-Chances 4. Electronic Identity Cards and Social Classification 5. Surveillance Creep in the Genetic Age 6. "Racial" Categories and Health Risks: Epidemiological Surveillance Among Canadian First Nations Part Three: Regulating Mobilities: Places and Spaces 7. Privacy and the Phenetic Urge: Geodemographics and the Changing Spatiality of Local Practice 8. People and Place: Patterns of Individual Identification within Intelligent Transportation Systems 9. Netscapes of Power: Convergence, Network Design, Walled Gardens, and other Strategies of Control in the Information Age Part Four: Targeting Trouble: Social Divisions 10. Categorizing the Workers: Electronic Surveillance and Social Ordering in the Call Centre 11. Private Security and Surveillance: From the "Dossier Society" to Database Networks 12. From Personal to Digital: CCTV, the Panopticon, and the Technological Meditation of Suspicion and Social Control

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