Humanities Salon event — The Politics of Surveillance Narratives: From Creative Visions to Experiential Reflections

10 May, 2011
Dr Peter Marks, Department of English, and Dr Gavin Smith Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney

Surveillance constitutes one of contemporary society’s most pressing and perplexing concerns, but our responses to it and our understanding of it can be haphazard and ill-informed. Is it the stuff of Orwellian nightmare, or a necessary and enabling part of routine life, something without which modern civilization could barely function? This presentation provides both fictional and factual perspectives, opening up discussion on the past, present and future of surveillance. Peter Marks traces the creative representation of surveillance in literary and cinematic utopias and dystopias, exploring how these speculations offer illuminating ways of thinking about the political and moral questions and possibilities that surveillance compels us to confront. Gavin Smith considers the lived experience of surveillance as articulated by those workers entrenched in the everyday mechanics of surveillance operation. The banal and trying nature of this distinctive form of labour offers a layer of complexity to both fictional and non-fictional accounts of surveillance, and adds a politics of exploitation and alienation to conventional (simplistic) understandings of surveillance as consolidating either dystopic or utopic power.

Venue: Sydney Law School foyer, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus.
Time: 6.00pm to 7.30pm


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