Surveillance Studies

I’m an associate editor of the journal, Surveillance & Society and much of my research examines how the ability to monitor and surveil software users changes production practices and economic models behind new media such as games.

With my graduate student, Brian Schram, I am currently working on a project rethinking social networks and surveillance. Notions of privacy coalesce around an individual’s right to privacy, largely centering on one’s autonomy over their information, and the protection from corporate and government surveillance. This project will theorize the how anonymity and privacy might be reconciled with the conditions of community formation and social organization that are predicated upon lateral surveillance.

Here is a selection of articles on the topic, ranging from identity theft to the Snowden Documents, to games.  For the complete listing, please check out my publication list.

game studies meets surveillance studies at the edge of digital culture

In this introduction to a special issue of Surveillance & Society, Bart Simon and I  tease apart some of the intersections of games and surveillance, beginning with a discussion of the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden on using games to both monitor and influence unsuspecting populations. Next, we provide an overview of corporate data-gathering practices in games and further outline the production of manageable, computable subjectivities. Then, we show how the game Watch Dogs explores the surveillant capacities of games at both the game mechanical and representational scales. These three different facets of surveillance, games, and play set the scene for the special issue and the diverse articles that follow.  In the following pages we pose new lines of questioning that highlight the nuances of play and offer new modes of thinking about what games – and the processes of watching and being watched that are a foundational part of the experience – can tell us about surveillance.

You can read the whole article here.

gaming the quantified self

By their nature, digital games facilitate surveillance. They allow for the compilation of statistics, internal states, and rules to be recorded, thus hiding many of the internal workings from the players and making the games much more complex. This digitization makes it much easier to collect player data and metrics, and then, as a process of function creep, to use this data in new and innovative ways, such as improving the user experience, or subtly shaping users’ in-game desires and behaviours. Increasingly, these practices have moved from non-game spaces into social networking sites and spaces of play.

Find the extended abstract, and the link to the entire article here.

identity theft and the care of the virtual self

Written at the very cusp of the identity theft panic, in this paper Kevin Haggerty and I analyse how major institutions publicly respond to the crime of identity theft.

The paper concentrates on how individuals are encouraged to responsibilize themselves against this potentiality, and what they should do in the event they are victimized. These two distinct discourses (prevention and victimization) aim to fashion a hyper-vigilant citizen whose daily routines, home environment, consumption patterns and sense of self are being brought into accord with wider power dynamics. These measures can be understood as encouraging a care of the virtual self a wider social project characteristic of an informational age that encourages individuals to reduce the risks and maximize the potentialities related to their data double. In the context of identity theft, however, institutionally promoted methods for the care for the virtual self transcend what is reasonably practicable for most citizens and mask the role played by major institutions in fostering the preconditions for identity theft.

Drop me an email if you can’t access the paper, as it’s one of my only ones behind a paywall (which I hate).

special issue of the journal surveillance & society on games, Play & surveillance

Bart Simon and I put together an edited collection of open-access works that look at the use of surveillance in games.  We’re quite happy with how it turned out, especially with the range of scholarship.  I found that the opinion articles and research notes, in particular, go far beyond quick postscripts and are well worth a read.


Jennifer R. Whitson, Bart Simon


Aphra Kerr, Stefano De Paoli, Max Keatinge
Lauren B. Collister
Casey O’Donnell
Carrie Elizabeth Andersen
Jason Farman
Nathan Hulsey, Joshua Reeves
Carol Margaret Barron
Kate Raynes-Goldie, Matthew Allen


Alex Dean Cybulski
Alessandro Canossa
Austin Walker
Justine Gangneux

Research Notes

Holly Robbins, Katherine Isbister

Artistic Presentations

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