Video activism and the ambiguities of counter-surveillance

Wilson, Dean and Serisier, Tanya (2010) Video activism and the ambiguities of counter-surveillance. Surveillance & Society, 8 (2). pp. 166-180. ISSN 1477-7487

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This paper examines the use of visual technologies by political activists in protest situations to monitor police conduct. Using interview data with Australian video activists, this paper seeks to understand the motivations, techniques and outcomes of video activism, and its relationship to counter-surveillance and police accountability. Our data also indicated that there have been
significant transformations in the organization and deployment of counter-surveillance methods since 2000, when there werelarge-scale protests against the World Economic Forum meeting in Melbourne accompanied by a coordinated campaign that sought to document police misconduct. The paper identifies and examines two inter-related aspects of this: the act of filming and the process of dissemination of this footage. It is noted that technological changes over the last decade have led to a proliferation of visual recording technologies, particularly mobile phone cameras, which have stimulated a corresponding proliferation of
images. Analogous innovations in internet communications have stimulated a coterminous proliferation of potential outlets for images. Video footage provides activists with a valuable tool for safety and publicity. Nevertheless, we argue, video activism can have unintended consequences, including exposure to legal risks and the amplification of official surveillance. Activists are also often unable to control the political effects of their footage or the purposes to which it is used. We conclude by assessing the
impact that transformations in both protest organization and media technologies might have for counter-surveillance techniques based on visual surveillance.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Research Centres and Groups: Crime Research Centre
Depositing User: Dean Wilson
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2017 10:37
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2017 10:37

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