Abstract
Public video surveillance tends to be discussed in either utopian or dystopian terms: proponents maintain that camera surveillance is the perfect tool in the fight against crime, while critics argue that the use of security cameras is central to the development of a panoptic, Orwellian surveillance society. This paper provides an alternative, more nuanced view. On the basis of an empirical case study, the paper explores how camera surveillance applications do not simply augment surveillance capacities, but rather have to deal with considerable uncertainties in the process of producing a continuous, effective, all‐seeing gaze. The case study shows that the actions of human operators and the operation of camera technologies each place limits on the execution of electronic visual surveillance, instead of efficiently enhancing the powers of the surveilling gaze. The analysis suggests that the effects of video surveillance are rather ambivalent and uncertain, thus showing that public camera systems are not simply beneficial or malign.
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DOI 10.1108/14779960480000239
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