Elements of surveillance: A new framework and future directions

Ball, Kirstie (2002). Elements of surveillance: A new framework and future directions. Information, Communication and Society, 5(4) pp. 573–590.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691180208538807


This paper argues for a wider conceptualisation of the meaning and significance of surveillance in contemporary social studies. It has been written in the context of recently published work by Lyon (2001; 2002) who establishes a powerful argument illuminating the social and technical interconnectedness of surveillance systems, and the invisibility of their social ordering effects, in everyday life. The paper is divided into two parts. The first examines recent empirical work concerning two domains of surveillance practice, which are significant, and typical of the research findings in these areas of study. The first surveillance practice is that of CCTV in public space, and the second is that which occurs in the workplace. The second part, mindful of Lyon’s arguments, analyses the recently published work to examine broader ways in which we might want to conceptualise surveillance. It argues that it comprises four elements: representation, meaning, manipulation and intermediation which interact to form ‘surveillance domains’, and, at a local level, are contested, politicised places. Highlighting the role of intermediation, it uses this framework as the basis of an applied research strategy into everyday surveillance practices.

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