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Surveillance & Society Alerts

New Issue: 15(2) Open Issue

About Me

I always feel like somebody’s watching me…

I’m Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Surveillance Studies, based in the Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC), and Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I am also cross-appointed in the Department of Geography.

My current 5-year research project, Ubicity, is funded by an Insight Grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and it looks at the security and surveillance aspects of ‘smart city’ projects. You can read about it here. My main interests right now are around smartness, urban governance and the emergence of a planetary scale surveillance society. I’m hoping to finish my long-threatened book on the latter, The Watched World, by the end of this year. There is a lot more about my publications here.

I’m a core team member of the Big Data Surveillance partnership run by The Surveillance Studies Centre here at Queen’s. I was previously part of The New Transparency Major Collaborative Research Initiative here and we produced our final report, Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada. I’m also a founding editor and current Co-Editor-in-Chief of Surveillance & Society, the international, open access, peer-reviewed journal of surveillance studies, and a founder-member of the Surveillance Studies Network.

Some History…

Until 31st August 2009, I was Reader in Surveillance StudiesĀ  at the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) at Newcastle University in the UK. I was the co-initiator, with William Webster, of theĀ  European Science Foundation COST action, Living in Surveillance Societies’ (LiSS) and I had an ESRC Research Fellowship for a project called ‘Cultures of Urban Surveillance’ which looked at the globalization of surveillance across different countries. This project continued into the first 5 years of my CRC here at Queen’s.

As part of the project, in 2013-14, I spent ten months in Japan as a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Fellow, based at Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe, but also working with folks from Meiji University in Tokyo. Connected to the same project, I had previously been a Visiting Fellow the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, Curitiba, Brazil and a Visiting Scholar at Waseda University, in Tokyo. In addition I’ve been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

Prior to all this, back in 2006 I coordinated the influential Report on the Surveillance Society for the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) – and was part of the team for a short follow-up report which came out in 2013. Way, way back, from 1997-2001, I did my PhD work under Rachel Woodward at Newcastle University on ‘The Hidden Geographies of Transnational Surveillance’, a thesis which examined US National Security Agency (NSA) bases in the UK and worldwide, and for a couple of years after this I worked under Steve Graham, at the Global Urban Research Unit at Newcastle, on my postdoc project entitled ‘Algorithmic Surveillance and Social Exclusion’ (2002-2003) back when few in social sciences had heard of algorithms or big data…

Even further back, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I studied Modern History at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. During this time and for many years after I was an environmental, peace and indigenous rights direct action activist, also working with pressure groups and political parties, particularly the short-lived but I think pretty influential, Earth Action Resource Centre (Earth ARC), Earth First!, Stop the War Machine, Oxfam and the Green Party of England and Wales. I later taught English in Japan, and then did an MSc is Rural Resource and Countryside Management at Newcastle, where I also taught Environmental Management, Ecological Economics and Alternative Approaches to Rural Development.

Personal Stuff

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and we’ve almost finished building a Passive House together – there’s another blog about that. I also practice Japanese Taiko drumming with King’s Don Taiko, cycle and run, with Kingston Road Runners, sometimes competitively, and occasionally do triathlons (the swimming part being the problem…). I like science fiction, gardening, cooking, and have a weird sense of humour that not everyone understands. I suffer from long-term depression, am disorganized, speak too fast, write too little, and used to be constantly thinking that everyone thought I was an unreliable and lazy failure, but I have more recently decided to stop worrying about any of this. And I do not own a mobile phone, which many people seem to find either amusing or simply inexplicable.