Watching the Watchers

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Kirstie Ball
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - 17:15

School III, St Salvators’s Quadrangle, St Andrews University

Abstract:

Over 30 years ago, when cyberneticist Stafford Beer proclaimed ‘my electronic image in the machine may be more real than I am’, he was signalling his concern with the impact of personal information processing on human dignity, autonomy and identity.  Since then, large scale personal Information processing has become so central to business organization, public governance and law enforcement it has the potential to shape society from the most local to the most global of levels.  It has also resulted in what has been termed ‘a surveillance society’.

In this lecture Professor Kirstie Ball explains the features and dynamics of surveillance society, who is watching and why we should be watching them back.  She draws upon her research on surveillance -  from B&B covert inspections to national security and credit scoring - to explore the antics of the watchers. A tension arises in that those who have the power to promote open-ness in the execution of surveillance are also heavily invested in surveillance as the means to get things done.  As awareness of surveillance grows and both individuals and groups question its impact on their lives, the lecture will set out the potential for participation in relation to surveillance.  Along the way Professor Ball will also detail her adventures of being entrepreneurial in academia and the long term benefits of not doing what you’re supposed to.

The lecture is open to members of the public. No reservation required.