Critical Surveillance Studies in the Information Society

  • Thomas Allmer Unified Theory of Information Research Group
Keywords: Surveillance Studies, Critical Political Economy, Economic Surveillance, Workplace Surveillance, Pre-Employment Screening, Consumer Surveillance


The overall aim of this paper is to clarify how we can theorize and systemize economic surveillance. Surveillance studies scholars like David Lyon stress that economic surveillance such as monitoring consumers or the workplace are central aspects of surveillance societies. The approach that is advanced in this work recognizes the importance of the role of the economy in contemporary surveillance societies. The paper at hand constructs theoretically founded typologies in order to systemize the existing literature of surveillance studies and to analyze examples of surveillance. Therefore, it mainly is a theoretical approach combined with illustrative examples. This contribution contains a systematic discussion of the state of the art of surveillance and clarifies how different notions treat economic aspects of surveillance. In this work it is argued that the existing literature is insufficient for studying economic surveillance. In contrast, a typology of surveillance in the modern economy, which is based on foundations of a political economy approach, allows providing a systematic analysis of economic surveillance on the basis of current developments on the Internet. Finally, some political recommendations are drawn in order to overcome economic surveillance. This contribution can be fruitful for scholars who want to undertake a systematic analysis of surveillance in the modern economy and who want to study the field of surveillance critically.

Author Biography

Thomas Allmer, Unified Theory of Information Research Group
Thomas Allmer has studied Media and Communication at the University of Salzburg and the Victoria University of Melbourne. Currently he is a PhD candidate at the University of Salzburg and Research Associate in the project “Social Networking Sites in the Surveillance Society”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). He is a member of the Unified Theory of Information Research Group (UTI) and participates in the working group “Living in the Surveillance Age” of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology Action “Living in Surveillance Societies”.