Revisiting the surveillance camera revolution: Issues of governance and public policy. Introduction to Part one of the special issue



Webster CWR, Topfer E, Klauser FR & Raab CD (2011) Revisiting the surveillance camera revolution: Issues of governance and public policy. Introduction to Part one of the special issue. Information Polity, 16 (4), pp. 297-301.

First paragraph: Video surveillance cameras and systems - commonly referred to as Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) - are a defining feature of modern society. Their widespread use, as fixed or mobile devices, deployed for a range of purposes and by a variety of public and private actors, is now unsurprising and generally accepted in most countries. The normality of these surveillance practices, and the technologies used, are a world away from the early tube cameras used for local broadcasting and the isolated monitoring of industrial processing in the 1930s and 1940s. The diffusion processes, which have led to the exponential growth of these cameras and systems, have included evolutions in the design, function and capabilities of systems, especially around opportunities for extended, combined and automated systems offered by new information and communication technologies. These technologies have been shaped by a raft of interested parties, including engineers, manufacturers, clients/service users, politicians and regulators. The changing and contested terminology used to denote and describe the socio-technical practices around these systems illustrates both the variety of applications and their wider social and political context. 'Video surveillance', 'video observation', 'video protection' and 'visual surveillance' share the semantic reference to viewing and imply monitoring rooted in the technological practices of optoelectronics, but they convey different meanings about the benefits and uses of technology. In the same way, terms like 'spy cameras', 'big brother cameras', 'security cameras' and 'public safety cameras' convey different meanings and different perceived 'impacts'. An example of the political significance of language and terminology is provided by the French Government, which decided to replace the term 'video surveillance' with 'video protection' in all legal texts and regulations in an attempt to influence the perceived societal 'meaning' of these systems (see Heilmann in this Special Issue).

Output Type: Editorial

Information Polity: Volume 16, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2011
PublisherIOS Press

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Professor William Webster

Professor William Webster

Personal Chair, Management, Work and Organisation