The Political Economy of Surveillance: A Research Workshop

Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, UK
Sept 9 – 11 2010

Funded by ‘The New Transparency’ Major Collaborative Research Initiative and ‘Living in Surveillance Societies’ EU COST Action

The New Transparency (‘NewT’) and the Living in Surveillance Societies COST action (‘LiSS’) presents a workshop on ‘The Political Economy of Surveillance’. One of the key driving forces behind the Surveillance Society is the interests and strategies of governmental and corporate organizations and their members. Whether these organizations
are concerned with the control of crime, the administration of health or welfare, selling goods
or managing risk, the collection, analysis and application of personal data is at the core of
many of their activities. Marketing techniques designed to profile desirable ‘lifetime’ customers
are the same as those used to detect ‘undesirables’ through their financial transactions and
travel movements. Technologies developed by the military to control populations in times of
war, diffuse into civilian usage in times of peace. Responses to government calls for
surveillance and security provision, are responded to by consultancies and technology
companies, backed by international capital, at the very forefront of scientific innovation and

At this workshop we'll explore the dynamics of the international surveillance
industry, including the following issues:

• Mapping the nature and extent of the surveillance industry
• The characteristics, strategies and behaviours of private and public sector
organizations which constitute the surveillance industry
• The roles played by private and public sector organizations in promoting surveillance
at specific sites, e.g. mega-events, new digital media
• The interaction of market dynamics with the security and/or crime control priorities of
the modern state
• Interorganizational relationships in the surveillance industry
• Understanding the military and surveillance industry interface
• The diffusion of technological innovations which have surveillance capacity between
different sectors and contexts of application
• The shaping of the everyday discourse and practice of corporate and government
actors by surveillance imperatives
• Regulation of the surveillance industry
• The history of the surveillance industry and its technological developments

The objective of the workshop is to examine these, and other themes, at a venue in one of the
world’s exemplar surveillance societies, the United Kingdom. The questions at the centre of
the workshop are relevant not only for academic but for a variety of key actors involved both
in developing and conducting surveillance practices. On this basis, the workshop will address
issues that are critically relevant to policy-makers, regulators, non-governmental actors,
private sector representatives, media representatives, consumers and employees, and will
hopefully involve representatives from these sectors.

The co-organizers are: Dr Kirstie Ball, Open University Business School
and Professor Laureen Snider, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University. The deadline for the receipt of draft papers is August 1st, 2010. The workshop is interdisciplinary in nature, and selected papers from the workshop will be considered for publication in an edited collection (publisher to be determined).

Dr Kirstie Ball, The Open University
Professor Laureen Snider, Queen's University