The Banality of Security: The Curious Case of Surveillance Cameras

(2013) British Journal of Criminology first published online July 23, 2013

Posted: 13 Sep 2013

See all articles by Benjamin J. Goold

Benjamin J. Goold

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law

Ian Loader

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Anjelica Thumala

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Date Written: July 2013

Abstract

Why do certain security goods become banal (while others do not)? Under what conditions does banality occur and with what effects? In this paper, we answer these questions by examining the story of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) in Britain. We consider the lessons to be learned from CCTV’s rapid — but puzzling — transformation from novelty to ubiquity, and what the banal properties of CCTV tell us about the social meanings of surveillance and security. We begin by revisiting and reinterpreting the historical process through which camera surveillance has diffused across the British landscape, focusing on the key developments that encoded CCTV in certain dominant meanings (around its effectiveness, for example) and pulled the cultural rug out from under alternative or oppositional discourses. Drawing upon interviews with those who produce and consume CCTV, we tease out and discuss the family of meanings that can lead one justifiably to describe CCTV as a banal good. We then examine some frontiers of this process and consider whether novel forms of camera surveillance (such as domestic CCTV systems) may press up against the limits of banality in ways that risk unsettling security practices whose social value and utility have come to be taken for granted. In conclusion, we reflect on some wider implications of banal security and its limits.

Keywords: banality, camera surveillance, material culture, objects, security

Suggested Citation

Goold, Benjamin J. and Loader, Ian and Thumala, Anjelica, The Banality of Security: The Curious Case of Surveillance Cameras (July 2013). (2013) British Journal of Criminology first published online July 23, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2302831

Benjamin J. Goold (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada
(604) 822-3752 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bjgoold.net/

Ian Loader

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

Anjelica Thumala

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Av Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins 340
Santiago, Región Metropolitana 8331150
Chile

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