Crime, surveillance and media

Authored by: Michael McCahill

Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415588836
eBook ISBN: 9780203814949
Adobe ISBN: 9781136711077


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As Thomas Mathiesen (1997: 219) says, “it is, to put it mildly, puzzling that Michel Foucault, in a large volume which explicitly or implicitly sensitizes us inter alia to surveillance in modern society, does not mention television—or any other mass media—with a single word.” For Mathiesen this was a crucial omission in Foucault’s work because with the development of mass media the Benthamite project of the panopticon (where the few see the many) has been accompanied by the synopticon, where the many observe the few (see also Kammerer, this volume). As several writers have argued, these developments can have a significant democratizing impact on surveillance processes. A brief perusal of the newspapers at the time of writing provides ample evidence of the democratizing potential of the “viewer society.” The release by Wikileaks of secret US Embassy cables or the launch of which will scan social media to provide information on the whereabouts of thousands of celebrities both clearly illustrate how new media allow the “many” to watch the “few.”

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