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Under SurveillanceUnder Surveillance

Being Watched in Modern America

Randolph Lewis


Book published by University of Texas Press


Never before has so much been known about so many. CCTV cameras, TSA scanners, NSA databases, big data marketers, predator drones, “stop and frisk” tactics, Facebook algorithms, hidden spyware, and even old-fashioned nosy neighbors—surveillance has become so ubiquitous that we take its presence for granted. While many types of surveillance are pitched as ways to make us safer, almost no one has examined the unintended consequences of living under constant scrutiny and how it changes the way we think and feel about the world. In Under Surveillance, Randolph Lewis offers a highly original look at the emotional, ethical, and aesthetic challenges of living with surveillance in America since 9/11.

Taking a broad and humanistic approach, Lewis explores the growth of surveillance in surprising places, such as childhood and nature. He traces the rise of businesses designed to provide surveillance and security, including those that cater to the Bible Belt’s houses of worship. And he peers into the dark side of playful surveillance, such as eBay’s online guide to “Fun with Surveillance Gadgets.” A worried but ultimately genial guide to this landscape, Lewis helps us see the hidden costs of living in a “control society” in which surveillance is deemed essential to governance and business alike. Written accessibly for a general audience, Under Surveillance prompts us to think deeply about what Lewis calls “the soft tissue damage” inflicted by the culture of surveillance.

Randolph Lewis is a professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written extensively on how visual culture shapes our sense of the nation, often focusing on people who work outside the cultural mainstream. His previous books include Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground.

REVIEWS:

“A sprightly tour down some of the surveillance society’s most claustrophobic corridors.”

—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Walkaway

“In this original take on the dilemma of constant surveillance, Randolph Lewis approaches the phenomenon of being watched constantly by watching back. An engaging, alarming, and enlightening book, one that is certain to be among the most important books on surveillance in the twenty-first century.”

—Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, author of The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)

“This incredibly compelling book provides a thoughtful and engaging exploration of the affective dimensions of contemporary surveillance. It is hard to think of another book that introduces readers to surveillance through the lenses of biography, ethnography, and critical cultural inquiry. The writing is witty and colorful, accessible while communicating many profound insights.”

—Torin Monahan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coauthor of SuperVision: An Introduction to the Surveillance Society

“Lewis is adept at making complex philosophical, historical, and sociological arguments comprehensible to the lay person, and he brings in a range of useful cultural references to provide a broader perspective on contemporary debates. The book is both sophisticated and accessible—a rare combination.”

—Stacy Takacs, Oklahoma State University, author of Terrorism TV: Popular Entertainment in Post-9/11 America





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University Press Audiobooks
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