Learning from audio-visual material: Introducing surveillance
Learning from audio-visual material: Introducing surveillance

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Learning from audio-visual material: Introducing surveillance

4.2 Introducing surveillance

The videos in this section will introduce you to surveillance as an idea and a practice. The main theme of these videos is how surveillance can be viewed as double-edged: it has both protective and disciplinary aspects to it. This double-edged nature of surveillance is explored through a case study of a shopping mall – the White Rose Centre on the outskirts of Leeds. You will come across a range of different evidence, including interviews with an academic, a policymaker and different users of the Centre, as well as with those who work in the Centre.

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Transcript: Video clip on Introducing surveillance part 1

Allan Cochrane
The course looks at some of the most important issues and challenges facing our modern world. The entanglements between welfare, crime and society and the tensions and overlaps between policies aimed at delivering social welfare and those intended to control crime. Issues of social justice, security and community are centrally important in this context. In this introductory chapter these issues are approached through a discussion of surveillance as an everyday experience.
John Banford
The Commissioner has warned about the dangers of sleep-walking into a surveillance society and I think we all have to recognise that as part of the modern world we live in, we have increasing amounts of personal information generated about us as we go about our everyday lives. Click of a mouse here; use of a mobile phone there; visiting an ATM machine; using a credit card; use of a supermarket loyalty card. Every time we do one of those things that enables electronic footprints to be generated about us. Well maybe every one of those when it’s on a discrete basis is acceptable, because it’s to do with providing us with a service, things that we expect. But it does provide the opportunity for all that information to be joined together and brought together in, in a way which might be used in an unwarranted way which affects individuals
Allan Cochrane
In this introductory film we’ll be looking at examples of surveillance in one very everyday location – a shopping centre on the edge of Leeds. I’m Allan Cochrane. I’ve come here as member of the Open University course team, to look at how surveillance is understood by those who do the watching, as well as those who are being watched. And I’ll also be reflecting on some of the tensions between being watched out for and protected, and being watched over, so that others may be protected. Out-of-town shopping centres like the White Rose can seem isolated from the communities which they serve, and one of the tasks faced by managers is to find ways of bringing them in as customers. How would you describe the broad ethos, the way in which the shopping centre is thought of and understood?
Peter Cook
Our core shopping public is actually quite a small number of people who come from the local community and as a result of that it’s very important that we make friends with the people in the local community, that we put something back into the community from whom we thrive.
Allan Cochrane
One community-focused scheme involves the early opening of the centre to allow older people to walk the internal malls – offering them a safe and warm place to exercise. Mall-walking has become a popular pastime for some. I’ve been watching people walk around, doing the walking in the early morning and I was just wondering what it is, why you have chosen to come here rather than anywhere else?
Nassem
It’s safer, you know, cos we’ve just got a park in front of our house, you know, we don’t feel safe and this is more convenient for us you know. We meet other people as well who’s doing the mall walking, you know we find it a lot better coming here.
Margaret
We do it for health reasons, you know, the exercise. I’m a diabetic myself and this is why I started doing it, for the exercise. But the, the staff and the security people are all so friendly, and that is in itself is an encouragement. And yeah, we do feel safe because of that.
Allan Cochrane
The promise of safety and security is a key issue for the shopping centre and that implies keeping some people out as well as providing a safe space for those who are allowed in. You know when you talk about making sure you keep undesirables out, how do you know who they are? How do you, do you have …?
John White
We have, we have had past dealings with several people that tend to keep returning to Centre, and we do have a, what’s known to us as our ‘Who’s in the zoo book’. And, er, it’s pretty full now, but we do refresh our minds and we know a lot of them as well cos they keep returning on a regular basis and they’re banned from Centre.
Ryan
Some people find the cameras and security guards a bit of an invasion of privacy, even in a public place. But I don’t really see it that way. I think if it’s making people feel safer and making it a nicer place for all ages, then I think it’s all right.
Allan Cochrane
In one sense the experience of surveillance is a universal one – everybody in a shopping centre comes under the view of the cameras. Marketing strategies are developed with the help of widely available personal data. Medical information is held by doctors; tax and benefit data is held by government departments. But people are affected differently depending on how they’re perceived through the surveillance process.
John White
Yeah, you’ve just got an IC1 male coming through the centre south-east entrance, wearing a white and grey top, blue jeans, white trainers and a baseball cap. Can you approach that man? He’s gone into Argos.
Security guard
Stand him down, John.
John White
Stand down, there. You just wait there outside. I’ve got whisky 3 4 outside. He’s actually banned from site.
Walkie talkie
Whisky, alpha, delta. So is he still banned for life or not?
John White
Yeah.
Security guard
Affirmative, we believe he is, yeah.
Kirstie Ball
The implications of a drift towards a surveillance society really depend upon how this information is used, where it’s stored, who gets access to it, what decision are taken with that information and how people’s life courses are steered.
Allan Cochrane
One way in which surveillance and information-gathering can be used, is to identify those who are seen as undesirable and to exclude them from a community.
Kirstie Ball
Surveillance is most intensively applied at borders and boundaries, because it seems to create pinch points or places where access is very tightly controlled and tightly negotiated. So the space is safe, so nobody is threatened.
Allan Cochrane
In a way the security staff have the responsibility of protecting the boundaries of the centre, so those inside become a form of community, protected from the threats that are believed to exist outside. This is also a community based around particular forms of shopping – particular sets of shops. And some of those who remain on the outside do so because the shops are thought to be too expensive, or not for people like them.
Peter Cook
I think if there are any excluded groups, it would be people who perhaps feel they can’t afford to shop at the White Rose Shopping Centre. So we do extensive research in terms of our catchment and who shops and who doesn’t, and our research indicates that because … our shops are not really high, highly upmarket, but equally we’re not a budget shopping centre. Where we are in south Leeds, we’re actually situated in quite a deprived area of Leeds. Some of the poorest wards in the country are located on our doorstep. So I think, I think it’s possibly more of an exclusion due to sociodemographic profile rather than an excluded group in terms of, say, troublemakers or anything like that.
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Allan Cochrane
If one strategy is to look for ways of excluding potential troublemakers, another is to look for ways of supporting them to improve their behaviour – a welfare-oriented rather than a punitive approach. A learning centre sponsored by Education Leeds has been set up within the White Rose Centre. It provides after-school activities for children and young people in danger of being excluded from school. The focus of the activities is on making the White Rose attractive to young people.
Peter Cook
We provide money or contribute to a vehicle that picks the children up from school and when they’ve finished round about three o’clock, three-thirty, children particularly who are not performing, who have low self-esteem, are probably missing school an awful lot, come to the White Rose Learning Centre where they receive special tuition. Up to … Up to now their attendance level has been 100 per cent, even those who are not attending school, are attending learning centre 100 per cent. Their self-esteem is lifted enormously and many of the children who come to the Learning Centre then become mentors and in turn help other children who come to the facility.
Allan Cochrane
Tell me about what brought you here in the first place.
Will
I were at risk of exclusion, so I got targeted to come here and I did the, the project and I liked it that much that I come back as a peer mentor. Started helping out and I’m still here today because there’s not really much to do around this area. There’s … there’s parks and things like that, but that are very dark and vandalised. Not very much… there’s youth clubs but they’re very far between and there’s not that much to do otherwise than to come here.
Allan Cochrane
Another form of surveillance is involved here, even if it may not always be described in those terms. Will was identified through school as being at risk of exclusion.
Will
When I first come here we did the dance and I was a student and I took part in the dance. And then from that I went back to school and I chose dance as a subject. And I did my GCSEs and passed them and I’ve started my A-levels now – Dance – and now I’ve started me own dance classes out of here and other places. So from just starting here, that little bit of dance for that ten week has near enough changed what I’m gonna do for rest of my life.
Allan Cochrane
It is sometimes suggested that effective surveillance and information-gathering at an early stage should make it possible to identify those children who are most likely to go on to exhibit anti-social behaviour later in life.
John Banford
A lot’s been said about how do we manage to identify the 20 per cent of adults who are going to commit 80 per cent of the crime? Wouldn’t it be good if we could identify those children who were going to grow up into those 20 per cent of adults? Well that on the face of it sounds a really good idea, doesn’t it? Must be a good use of public money, deflect people from lives of crime, crime will go down. But if you start to profile young children on the basis that perhaps one of the relatives has already got a criminal record or maybe they don’t always turn up for school on time or things like that, you start to stigmatise and actually you could be the best behaved child in the school, but because you’ve got these risk factors attached to you, you’re treated with suspicion by the next teacher who teaches you for the next school year, by people who come into contact with you. So I think we need to be really careful about some of the things that we wish on ourselves.
Allan Cochrane
Those overseeing security in the Centre face continuing tensions between the drive to exclude those who might be expected to cause trouble and the wish to encourage shoppers into the Centre, as well as tensions between providing safety for those defined as part of the shopping community and trying to be fair to groups who might feel picked on or excluded.
Will
I think with the security, it makes younger people feel more safe that there, cos in town it’s open and owt could happen to them.
Allan Cochrane
If you came here with a bunch of your mates though do you think you might be seen as the problem rather than somebody who’s just coming here to shop?
Will
I think it’s … some people do get targeted because of how they dress or how they look. And I think that might be wrong. If it was a group of well-dressed children, they wouldn’t get told to split up. I think by the way someone dresses, you can’t tell how, how what type of person they are.
Claire
It doesn’t make you feel very welcome cos they like single you out just cos you’re young and it’s not right fair. Cos they don’t watch older people, just like … When I’m on my own I don’t get stared at as much but like when I come out with all them lot and everyone else they all, everyone does, stare in shops and that lot. It’s not right nice…
Allan Cochrane
Are there any particular groups that, you know, if you saw groups of people would there be an issue there?
John White
We never allow more than groups of five, six people to walk round the Centre, you know. It’s intimidating to our staff, customers. We don’t allow it. We tell them to break up or leave.
Allan Cochrane
That would mainly be younger people, would it?
John White
Younger people, yeah, teenagers, can be a bit boisterous at times, yeah.
Allan Cochrane
Do you ever notice the ways in which there is security here. I mean, do you notice the people walking around?
Kathryn and Edward
We’ve seen people walking around. We don’t see kids and idiots dashing about, you know, and making a noise. It feels very comfortable.
Allan Cochrane
The entanglements between welfare, crime and society also blur the relationship between private and public forms of security.
Peter Cook
The other thing we have as well, we have a police officer on site. This is his beat, he doesn’t go anywhere else. And we also have two PCSOs in addition to the police officer. So I think that balance of the soft uniform presence and also the uniform presence, because a shopper will see a police officer probably more in the White Rose Shopping Centre than they do down their own street, and so that gives the perception of, of safety; it gives the perception of security.
Allan Cochrane
Young people are often viewed as potentially troublesome or disorderly, even potential threats. By contrast, children are perceived as particularly vulnerable in society and the presence of police is felt to provide significant reassurance to parents using the Centre.
Peter Cook
And well what I think is important for kind of kiddies as well, is that a mum can say look, that’s a police officer, if you’re ever in trouble, then if you see someone who’s dressed like that, you can approach them and they will help you. And the police officer will, will speak to people as well. So we find that it gives a real perception, that service gives a real perception of safety and security, but without being overt.
Allan Cochrane
The formal arrangements which are so carefully choreographed through the shopping centre exist alongside more informal ways in which people look out for each other – and it is sometimes argued that they have come to replace them. How do you think the ways in which people sort of watch over and watch out for people has changed?
Khadija
I know before when I was younger and that, when I used to go shopping with my parents, it was never an issue if I wasn’t holding their hands or if I wasn’t strapped into my pushchair, cos it was almost like there was always a community spirit and there was always somebody else looking out for you as well. But now I think you really really have to look after your own child and having the surveillance there is almost just like a back-up mechanism and it just gives you that extra safetynet. And I think because of the media and just generally the way things have happened … in the public, has made surveillance change a great deal. I think it’s for the betterment really, more than anything else.
Claire
People don’t look out for each other as much as they should do. I mean if they did then there wouldn’t be a need for owt cameras and everything and it would be a lot better and everyone would be, yeah, probably get on a lot better anyway. I mean there’s even cameras on buses now and it’s ridiculous. It’s just … you can’t even sit on a bus without being watched.
Kirstie Ball
A common mistake is to think that surveillance is all about technology. It’s not all about technology. Technology doesn’t stand alone, technology is a product and it’s a product of a production process where something was designed and conceived and funded and resourced and based on a need or a demand. It is clearly part of a long social process, it just so happens that with the introduction of electronics and, and computer systems and databases we’ve got very, very good at it and we’ve got very, very efficient at it and now it’s having unintended ... unintended and intended consequences that really need to be thought through … from a social point of view.
Allan Cochrane
Modern technology certainly has made it easier to take some forms of surveillance for granted. It’s easy to miss or forget about the cameras and the information-gathering that takes place through shopping, whether on the high street, on the internet or in a shopping centre. Information-gathering of all sorts has become easier and more pervasive. Thinking about the shopping centre more broadly, I mean there are other ways in which you’re being, I think, looked out for but also watched over in this space?
Rita
Well I think everywhere …they say that Big Brother’s watching you, don’t they? There’s always someone trying to get information from whatever you do. You use your card and somebody knows that you’ve used it and where you used it. You use your mobile phone and people know where you are because they have a signal from it. So I think it’s just something that is happening all over the place now and you just accept it.
John Banford
We’ve been fortunate in that to the extent we’ve never perhaps lived in, in times when the state has misused information massively against its population. Now I’m not proposing that that’s going to be case here, but clearly as we get more and more information held about us, even though it’s ostensibly for goods purposes, to transform public services, to try and perhaps look for vulnerable members of society who … may be subject to criminal activity or whatever, or to catch perpetrators of crimes, equally the argument can go that we start to interfere with the lives of honest and lawabiding people. And we need to decide where the right balance is struck.
Allan Cochrane
The daily life of the White Rose Shopping Centre raises some key issues for the course. The way in which the Centre’s boundaries are managed and the form of community created, highlights some of the tensions between the search for security and the delivery of fairness to all. The way in which forms of surveillance are used to provide support for people, whether through the operation of a loyalty card, the provision of educational support, the opportunity of mall-walking or even the organisation of a community tea dance, highlights some of the ambiguities that are associated with it. In some respects the shopping centre provides a way of thinking about wider sets of social changes, because of the way in which it offers opportunities to those who are prepared to take advantage of them. But those opportunities also highlight the extent to which people are increasingly expected to take responsibility for their own welfare as well that of their families and communities. The implications of this are explored more fully as the course progresses.
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