Some Terms…

(partially adapted from

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV):

CCTV is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly transmitted, though it may employ point to point wireless links. CCTV is often used for surveillance in cities and towns across the world.


Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior. Systems surveillance is the process of monitoring the behavior of people, objects or processes within systems for conformity, to expected or desired norms, in trusted systems for security or social control.

Although the word surveillance in French literally means “watching over”, the term is often used for all forms of observation or monitoring, not just visual observation. Nevertheless, the all-seeing “eye in the sky” is still a general icon of surveillance. Surveillance in many modern cities and buildings often uses closed-circuit television cameras. Although surveillance is said to be a useful tool for law enforcement and security companies, there is very little evidence to suggest that it successfully reduces crime. There are also major concerns about the loss of privacy and its effect on peoples lives within their lived environment.

Sousveillance (or Inverse Surveillance):

Inverse surveillance is a proper subset of sousveillance with a particular emphasis on “watchful vigilance from underneath” and a form of surveillance inquiry or legal protection involving the recording, monitoring, study, or analysis of surveillance systems, proponents of surveillance, and possibly also recordings of authority figures and their actions. Inverse surveillance is typically an activity undertaken by those who are generally the subject of surveillance, and may thus be thought of as a form of ethnography or ethnomethodology study (i.e. an analysis of the surveilled from the perspective of a participant in a society under surveillance).[2]

Sousveillance typically involves community-based recording from first person perspectives, without necessarily involving any specific political agenda, whereas inverse-surveillance is a form of sousveillance that is typically directed at, or used to collect data to analyze or study, surveillance or its proponents.

The Panopticon effect:

Surveillance by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public spaces is an example of a technology that brings the gaze of a superior into the daily lives of the populace. In some places like Middlesbrough, a town in the North of England, the council has gone as far as putting loudspeakers to the CCTV cameras which can transmit the voice of a camera supervisor.[8][9]

In 1785, English social theorist Jeremy Bentham came up with the concept of the Panopticon Prison. The design of the prison is such to allow an observer to observe all prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”[1]

This concept of an invisible surveillance, where one superior watches over subjects who cannot see the superior or know whether they are being watched, is one that has been applied to society through the hundreds of CCTV networks in urban environments across the world.