About Me

I always feel like somebody’s watching me…

I am the Director of the Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC) and Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I am also cross-appointed in the Department of Geography, and a member of the Cultural Studies graduate program.

I’m a founding editor and current Co-Editor-in-Chief of Surveillance & Society, the international, open access, peer-reviewed journal of surveillance studies, and a founder-member and hopefully soon-to-be director (again) of the Surveillance Studies Network.

I’m a core team member of the Big Data Surveillance Partnership led by Emeritus Professor David Lyon here at the Surveillance Studies Centre here at Queen’s. I am also a member of the new Human-Centric Cybersecurity Partnership, led by Benoit Dupont at the Université de Montreal.

My main research interests right now are around smartness, what I call platform cities, AI and ambient intelligence, and the emergence of a planetary surveillance society. I’m also working on a project on Google’s move to AI-based advertising, funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. I’m hoping to finish my long-threatened book, The Watched World, by the end of this year (whatever year this is…!). There is a lot more about my publications here.

Some History…

Between 2009 and 2019 I was the Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Surveillance Studies. I was also previously part of The New Transparency Major Collaborative Research Initiative here and we produced our final report, Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada.

Until 31st August 2009, I was Reader in Surveillance Studies  at the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) at Newcastle University in the UK. I was the co-initiator, with William Webster, of the  European Science Foundation COST action, Living in Surveillance Societies’ (LiSS) and I had an ESRC Research Fellowship for a project called ‘Cultures of Urban Surveillance’ which looked at the globalization of surveillance across different countries. This project continued into the first 5 years of my CRC here at Queen’s.

As part of the project, in 2013-14, I spent ten months in Japan as a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Fellow, based at Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe, but also working with folks from Meiji University in Tokyo. Connected to the same project, I had previously been a Visiting Fellow the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, Curitiba, Brazil and a Visiting Scholar at Waseda University, in Tokyo. In addition I’ve been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

Prior to all this, back in 2006 I coordinated the influential Report on the Surveillance Society for the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) – and was part of the team for a short follow-up report which came out in 2013. Way, way back, from 1997-2001, I did my PhD work under Rachel Woodward at Newcastle University on ‘The Hidden Geographies of Transnational Surveillance’, a thesis which examined US National Security Agency (NSA) bases in the UK and worldwide, and for a couple of years after this I worked under Steve Graham, at the Global Urban Research Unit at Newcastle, on my postdoc project entitled ‘Algorithmic Surveillance and Social Exclusion’ (2002-2003) back when few in social sciences had heard of algorithms or big data…

Even further back, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I studied Modern History at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. During this time and for many years after I was an environmental, peace and indigenous rights direct action activist, also working with pressure groups and political parties, particularly the short-lived but I think pretty influential, Earth Action Resource Centre (Earth ARC), Earth First!, Stop the War Machine, Oxfam and the Green Party of England and Wales. I later taught English in Japan, and then did an MSc is Rural Resource and Countryside Management at Newcastle, where I also taught Environmental Management, Ecological Economics and Alternative Approaches to Rural Development.

Personal Stuff

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and we built a Passive House together – there’s another blog about that. I used to practice Japanese Taiko drumming with King’s Don Taiko, I cycle and run, with Kingston Road Runners, sometimes competitively, and occasionally do triathlons (the swimming part being the problem…). I like science fiction, gardening, cooking, and have a weird sense of humour that not everyone understands. I suffer from long-term bipolar disorder, am disorganized, speak too fast, write too little, and used to be constantly thinking that everyone thought I was an unreliable and lazy failure, but I have more recently decided to stop worrying about any of this. And I do not own a mobile phone, which many people seem to find either amusing or simply inexplicable.

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