This issue is a selection of papers derived from the activities of The University of Sydney’s Surveillance and Everyday Life Research Group. The editorial committee identified the following thematic as the substantive focus of the edition, namely: climates of distrust (distrust of subjects, distrust of ideology, distrust of authority etc.), desires for truth-making and cultural circuits of surveillance texts. It was felt that a critical exploration of this topic was a novel intellectual contribution to the surveillance studies field and would prove fascinating/pertinent subject-matter for a special edition.

In many ways, the need for ‘truth making’ and ‘truth adjudication’ technologies accentuates in organizational contexts defined by technocratic and bureaucratized principles and in socio-cultural contexts defined by increasing levels of uncertainty, distrust, complexity and inequity. In times of rapid global change, object-subject mobility, resource scarcity, scientific development, contingency governance, identity politics, anxiety and scepticism, surveillance systems/texts are used by agents for multiple ends. They are appropriated to envision social relations, establish truths, order populations, dispose resources, identify undesired social conditions, visualize utopian solutions, preempt unknown futures, craft identities and foster new varieties of social connectivity. Thus, this special issue of Surveillance & Society will focus analysis on the affinities existing among cultures of distrust, desires for truth-making and surveillance text circulation. It will indirectly address the following questions: Do surveillance systems (and related truth-making practices) reduce or increase relations of distrust and cultures of insecurity? What kinds of cultural knowledge can be derived from the analysis of surveillance texts in differing contexts? What is the political economic and legal value of surveillance texts? Are surveillance texts - as truth statements - themselves subject to currencies of trust/distrust? How are surveillance texts constructed and whose interests do they serve? What types of labour are invested in the manufacturing and processing of surveillance texts and how is this work remunerated? What kinds of social relations do surveillance platforms foster? How do subjects appropriate surveillance technologies to generate culturally specific surveillance texts? What other cultural values are embodied and emerge in surveillance texts? How might surveillance texts be used to craft social identities?


The Editorial Committee

Dr Gavin Smith, Department of Sociology, The Australian National University

Associate Prof Peter Marks, Department of English, The University of Sydney

Harriet Westcott, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney

Mehera San Roque, School of Law, The University of New South Wales

Associate Prof Stephen Robertson, Department of History, The University of Sydney


The photos accompanying the article, 'Covert' by Carolyn McKay can be seen on the Surveillance & Society photostream at:

Published: 2013-12-02