How Closed-Circuit Television Surveillance Organizes the Social: An Institutional Ethnography

Institutional ethnography is a sociological method of inquiry which problematizes social relations at the local site of lived experience, while examining how series of texts coordinate actions, consciousness, and forms of organization in extra-local settings. This paper will demonstrate that institutional ethnography is a critically innovative way to study the socio-technical dynamics of camera surveillance. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance video should be conceptualized as a text which is active and activated, coordinating lived realities and facilitating organization at the institutional level within a specific ruling framework. Research was conducted with camera operators in a Suburban Mall CCTV control room located in Victoria, BC. The talk of CCTV operators in their work setting demonstrates how video is used to coordinate lived realities and facilitate extra-local organization. The findings of this study suggest the gravity of racialized profiling in everyday surveillance and complicate Foucault's Panopticon metaphor.