Changing landscapes of surveillance: Emerging technologies and participatory surveillance in Dutch nightscapes

T. Timan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Surveillance is a current theme and locus of attention in Western societies. Accompanying this growing awareness, an increase in both number and type of surveillance technologies can be witnessed. One reason for this state of affairs lies in the reasoning that any evidence of a positive relation between surveillance technology and safety supports and encourages the deployment of surveillance technologies in a society.
This agenda can be questioned, not only in terms of the necessity of developing technology for the sake of technology, but also in terms of the type of society we want to live in: what is a desirable future when it comes to surveillance technology in society?

Combinations of new and existing surveillance technologies create new aims in the world of surveillance, such as the creation of ‘blanket’ surveillance in public space, which means striving for a complete coverage of public space, or the ability to see everything all the time. Besides the technological challenges this brings about (challenges of aligning standards, formats, databases, code, storage times, hardware and so on), the goal of creating a totally covering surveillance network generates new problems in the ‘boundary-negotiations’ of surveillance in public space: e.g. that of losing control, or oversight, on what types of technology are actually ‘surveilling’ and who or what is surveilling who or what exactly. Combined with the emergence of more individualized ICT technologies in the same public spaces where surveillance technologies are in place, boundaries and relations between surveillor and surveilled become blurry.

By communicating to the public that one is being watched in city centers, and that the city upholds rules of conduct in certain areas, the public who wants to do harm is warned while the public who is there to have fun is reassured: it is a safe but exciting place.
In the case of ‘old’ surveillance technology such a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), there exists a sense of clear power relations that are at work: a government installs a camera and citizens in public space are the subject of surveillance for that camera.
The cameras as well as the surveillance signs that can be encountered in public spaces communicate and inform on what is happening: you are a citizen and as such you are being watched.
However, when, this gaze becomes decentralized and somehow ubiquitous, as we can witness with emerging social and mobile media technologies, it becomes more difficult to understand who is watching who and why: power relations and the boundaries of surveillance now have a multiplicity of negotiation-points in public space.
This thesis aims to understand these negotiation-points by investigating how both humans and technologies shape surveillance practices in Dutch nightlife districts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Oudshoorn, Nelly, Promotor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date6 Nov 2013
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-0299-3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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