Discovering Urban Citizenship in the Surveillance Society

Author: Mike Dee, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Published: January 2016

Citation: Dee, M. (2016). Discovering Urban Citizenship in the Surveillance Society. IAFOR Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(1).


Cities and urban spaces around the world are changing rapidly from their origins in the industrialising world to a post-industrial, hard-wired landscape. A further embellishment is the advent of mobile media technologies supported by both existing and new communications and computing technology which claim to put the urban dweller at the heart of a new, informed and "liberated" seat of participatory urban governance. This networked, sensor-enabled society permits flows of information in a multitude of directions, ostensibly empowering the citizenry through "smart" installations such as "talking bus stops" detailing services, delays, transport interconnections and even weather conditions along desired routes. However, while there is considerable potential for creative and transformative kinds of citizen participation, there is also the momentum for "function-creep", whereby vast amounts of data are garnered in a broad application of urban surveillance. This kind of monitoring and capacity for surveillance connects with attempts by civic authorities to regulate, restrict, rebrand and reframe urban public spaces into governable and predictable arenas of consumption. This article considers questions around the possibilities for retaining and revitalising forms of urban citizenship, set in the context of Marshall’s original premise of civil, social and political citizenship(s) in the middle of the last century, following World War Two and the coming of the modern welfare state.


citizenship, urban, public space, surveillance, sensor