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What exactly is a ‘surveillance society’?

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What exactly is a ‘surveillance society’? The term is often used by the popular media to refer to the older more totalitarian notions of the ‘security state’ or Orwellian references to ‘Big Brother’ (Wood, 2009: 180). However, Wood points out that ‘surveillance societies’ exhibit immense cultural and geographical variety, in both historic and contemporary contexts, and need not exhibit totalitarian features (2009: 181). Wood acknowledges that more study of how societies encounter surveillance in order to determine the elements that operate at the different socio-spatial levels (2009: 189).

The right balance between surveillance and privacy, and security and civil liberties, is far from clear. While many shy away from the Orwellian nightmare depicted in the novel Nineteen-eighty-four (1984), they also demand protection from criminal activities and terrorist attacks. Post 9/11 civil liberties have been increasingly traded in for greater surveillance of the citizenry, especially in the US and associated countries (Jürgensen, 2004: 55). Surveillance is not inherently sinister or malig...
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