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Surveillance and Social Justice

Extended Call for Papers: Now due April 2020


Surveillance and Social Justice: Big-data politics, predictions, and potentials


Edited by Dr Leanne McRae (Curtin University), and Professor Mike Kent (Curtin University)


Abstracts Due: 1 April 2020


Post 9/11 fears of terrorism have radically changed information gathering and intelligence structures. Massive surveillance systems have become a site for daily navigation. Everyday interactions require digitised information for going to the movies, getting insurance, paying bills, and accessing government services. This information is increasingly stored in the cloud in perpetuity with little control over how this information is used and deployed.


An increasing public concern with privacy and security is stimulated by this immense data-gathering milieu. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has focused attention on social media networks, while The Gorgon Stare project has raised concerns about the extent to which safety, risk, crime and harm can be responsibly managed by states as they increasingly outsource policing to private companies.


The motivations behind the gathering of this data is the power that it holds and the potential within it to shape and redefine human knowledge and practises. Data-sets reveal patterns of human behaviour and allow the tracking of outcomes and the prediction of potentialities. Despite Google’s growing reputation as a massive database of our personal search histories and ‘pioneer of surveillance capitalism’[1] it also is a site for the tremendous social benefit of this data dragnetting. Viktor Mayer- Schӧnberger and Kenneth Cukier recount the role Google played in containing a potential H1N1 outbreak:


Google could “predict” the spread of the winter flu in the United States, not just nationally, but down to specific regions and even states. The company could achieve this by looking at what people were searching for on the Internet. Since Google receives more than three billion search queries every day and saves them all, it had plenty of data to work with.


Google took the 50 million most common search terms that Americans type and compared the list with CDC data on the spread of seasonal flu between 2003 and 2008. The idea was to identify areas infected by the flu virus by what people searched for on the Internet. Others had tried to do this with Internet search terms, but no one else had as much data, processing power, and statistical know-how as Google.[2]


We are seeking chapters that interrogate these awkward and in-between spaces of the surveillance society – between the oppressive and terrifying and the socially just and beneficial. How can the coerced digital participation[3] context service social justice rather than harm it? Instead of continued oppression of disempowered and unpopular individuals and groups, how might big-data surveillance assist resistance and rebellion, social justice and mobility?


Potential Topics:

Social Media and Security

Privacy and Empowerment

Big Data for Health

Governance, Sovereignty and Human Rights

CCTV, Cities and Movement through Urban Spaces

Big Data and the Environment

The GDPR and European Identity

Terms of Service and Data Use Policies

Facial Recognition Masks and other surveillance obscuring fashions

AI and the Right to be Forgotten

Big Brother in the 21st Century

Popular Culture, Big Data and the Representation of Surveillance

Parenting, Technology and Surveillance

Message Encryption and Resistance

Open Source/Open Society?

Corporate Surveillance


Submission Procedure


Potential authors are invited to submit chapter abstracts of no more than 500 words, including a title, 4 to 6 keywords, and a brief bio, by email to and by 1 April 2020. (Please indicate in your proposal if you wish to use any visual material, and how you have or will gain copyright clearance for visual material). Authors will receive a response by 15 April 2020, with those provisionally accepted due as chapters of approximately 6000 words (including references) by 30 July 2020 for review. If you would like any further information, please contact Mike or Leanne.



About the editors:


Leanne McRae is a Research Officer with Curtin University in Disability Studies currently working on ARC funded research entitled, Navigating Urban Spaces. Her first book; Terror, Leisure and Consumption: Spaces for Harm in a Post-Crash Era was published in 2018 with Emerald. Her second book; Crowd-Sourced Syllabus: A Curriculum for Resistance is currently under contract, also with Emerald, to be published in 2020. A third book contracted for Lexington Books entitled Secrecy, Social Media, and the State: Defining Crime, Managing Harm, and Protecting Privacy will be completed in 2020.


Mike Kent is an Professor in the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University. Mike’s research focus is on online social networking platforms as well as people with disabilities and their use of, and access to, information communication technology and the Internet. His other area of research interest is in higher education and particularly online education. His past successful edited collections include Manifestos for the Future of Critical Disability Studies and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Disability: Looking Towards the Future edited with Katie Ellis, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Rachel Robertson (Routledge, 2019),  Chinese social media: Social, cultural and political implications with Katie Ellis and Jian Xu (Routledge, 2018), Disability and Social Media: Global perspectives with Katie Ellis, (Routledge, 2017), Massive Open Online Courses and Higher Education: What went right, what went wrong and where to now with Rebecca Bennett (Routledge, 2017), Disability and the Media: Critical Concepts in Cultural and Media Studies (four volumes) with Katie Ellis (Routledge 2017), and An Education in Facebook: Higher Education and the World’s Largest Social Network with Tama Leaver (Routledge 2014). His forthcoming book projects include The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Disability Studies with Katie Ellis, Gaming Disability: Disability perspectives on contemporary video game with Katie Ellis and Tama Leaver, and Disability and Media – African perspectives with Tafadzwa Rugoho


[1] Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, (London: Profile Books, 2019), p. 9

[2] Viktor Mayer- Schӧnberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform how we Live, Work and Think, (Boston: First Mariner Books, 2014), pp. 1 - 2

[3] Veronica Barassi, “Datafied citizens in the age of coerced digital participation,” Sociological Research Online, doi: 10.1177/1360780419857734, p. 2