Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar 2017


Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar 2017 

“Surveillance in the Big Data Era”

15 June – 21 June

Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

Surveillance Studies has become a key way of understanding the contemporary world, and the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University has been one of the driving forces behind the growth of this transdisciplinary field. For over ten years, The Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar (SSSS) run by the SSC has provided doctoral students with an intensive, multi-disciplinary learning experience that addresses key issues of surveillance studies in ways that enhance the participants' own research projects, as well as providing a unique national and international networking opportunity, and making links between scholarship, policy and activism. Former participants have described SSSS at the most important point in their intellectual development, and as a time when they realized that they were part of something that spanned the globe. 

This year’s theme is Surveillance in the Big Data Era. Big Data practices mean that personal data are no longer collected for certain limited, specific and transparent purposes. Rather, Big Data jumps ahead, obtaining bulk data before determining their actual and potential uses and mobilizing algorithms and analytics to predict and intervene before behaviours, events and processes are set in train. Preemptive approaches are a bureaucratic incentive to over-collect data in security and law enforcement. At the same time, promises abound that real-time data analytics will transform aspects of retail, manufacturing, health care and public sector organizations. Some promises may be fulfilled, but what will this mean for democratic freedoms, privacy and the role of information in contemporary life? Bruce Schneier has also suggested that ‘Big Data’ be considered like ‘Big Oil’ or ‘Big Pharma’ – as a political economic category, a key part of what Shoshana Zuboff is calling ‘surveillance capitalism.’ Together, Big Data and Surveillance are transforming our personal, social, cultural, political, economic and ecological worlds, and there is an urgent need for this to be addressed in every sphere and at every level.   

Even if your research does not directly address Big Data, considering surveillance this way is likely to be highly significant and transformative. The Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar benefits students researching (Big) Data who haven’t yet considered the importance of surveillance.  The core of this year’s Seminar is the further development of participants’ own research projects. Facilitated by a member of seminar faculty, attendees present work-in-progress to the group and then work over the course of the week to delve deeper into the insights that surveillance studies can bring to each research project. The goal is to not only learn from seminars presented by top scholars within the field, but also to receive practical and implementable feedback regarding participants’ projects.

The Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar 2017 has four main components: 

  1. Thematic Discussions - key surveillance scholars will present cutting edge research, methodologies and theory, with a unique opportunity for in-depth discussion. 
  2. Professional Development – sessions with leading surveillance scholars will address issues such as academic publishing, knowledge mobilization, data collection, and peer-review / constructive critique.
  3. Participant Presentations – participants will present their submitted papers in a conference format, but with far more opportunity for discussion and constructive feedback from seminar faculty and other participants than at a regular academic conference.  
  4. Networking / Social – participants will be given the opportunity to form new contacts with scholars across the field of surveillance studies. 

Deadlines & Requirements:

  • The Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar is open to doctoral students at any stage of their study.
  • Applicants are invited to submit a short CV and a 300-400 word abstract of their paper, to with the subject “Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar 2017” by Friday, February 24th March 3
  • Abstracts will be peer reviewed and accepted applicants will be informed by Friday, March 17th 
  • Full payment of conference fees is due by Friday, May 5th. Further information will be provided regarding payment options upon acceptance. 
  • Papers (max 4,000 words) are required by Friday, May 26th, and will be distributed to all participants at least two weeks in advance of the Summer Seminar. 
  • Participants will present their paper in a 15 minute conference presentation during the Summer Seminar, and presented papers will be considered to be full conference publications. 

The Program:

The program for Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar 2017 considers surveillance in the era of Big Data and covers a range of topics and from a varying disciplinary approaches. Participants learn directly from top researchers in the field of surveillance studies, as well as technical experts, through a series of seminars, while the paper presentation, professional development and networking components of the program ensure that there will be direct tangible benefits to their own research projects.

The course leaders for 2017 are Torin Monahan (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), David Murakami Wood (Queen’s University) and Scott Thompson (Queen’s University).

The full line-up of invited speakers remains to be fully confirmed, but includes Don Aldridge (Queen’s University High Powered Computing Centre / ex-IBM), Martin Hand (Queen’s University), David Lyon (Queen’s University), Stefania Milan (Amsterdam), Mark Salter (University of Ottawa), Kristin Veel (Copenhagen), and Jennifer Whitson (University of Waterloo). 

The Seminar begins the morning of 15th June to lunchtime on June  21st. Participants should plan to arrive in Kingston on 14th June in order to start promptly on the 15th.

There will be no assessed tasks and no credit for enrolling in the seminar, although an official letter confirming your completion of the seminar and presentation of a paper will be provided, if requested.

The Seminar is timetabled to finish just before the Data Power 2017 conference at Carleton University, Ottawa, 22-23 June. Although there is no formal connection between the two events, participants may want to consider taking advantage of the timing to attend both. Ottawa is easily accessible from Kingston by rail or road. Please note if intending to present rather than just attend, abstract submission for DP2017 is due January 25th: 

Fees and Subsidies:

The fee for the 2017 Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar is $800 CAD (approximately 600 USD, 570 EUR or 490 GBP). The Seminar is a non-profit-making event; the SSC only charges what is required to run the Seminar, and this is a reduction from our fees in 2015, but for a longer and more packed program! The fee includes full participation, all social events, breakfast, lunches and evening meals. The fee does not include travel or accommodation. As soon as possible, you should confirm if your institution provides funding for travel and / or accommodation in cases where you will be presenting a paper, as an individually presented paper is a requirement of this year’s Seminar and this may enable you to find funding. 

For those coming from countries of the ‘Global South’, the Surveillance Studies Network (SSN) funds up to two (2) Global Scholar Awards for those participating in the Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar. These are awarded by SSN not by Queen’s University or by the seminar organisers, and details will be available on the SSN website here, shortly: 


On-campus accommodation in Queen's University's student residence, Watts Hall, is available to all participants. Accommodation expenses are NOT included in the registration fee. Each unit consists of two double-bed rooms with an attached full bathroom and costs $99 CAD plus 13% HST tax per night. Two occupants may share one unit. The Seminar organisers will accept room sharing requests and try to match up roommates. The organisers may also be able to direct those in particular financial need to local residents with a spare bed or couch.

 Payment, Cancellation and Refund Policy: 

There is no deposit for this year’s Seminar. However, full payment of the seminar fee is expected by Friday May 5th and no refunds can be given after this point, regardless of circumstances. Please consult Queen’s Event Services for deadlines regarding accommodation cancellations.