Surveillance From Underneath

Image via Shutterstock

In the digital era of smartphones, youtube, social media and blogging- a new type of reporting has emerged- “Citizen Journalism.” The potential for amateur reporters to publish their stories is greater than ever before and citizen journalism is changing the landscape of the media sphere and the journalism industry as we know it.

Image via Shutterstock

Surveillance is more prominent in today’s society then ever before. With the internet, smartphone apps, location services, social media and CCTV cameras– to name a few- “big brother” really is watching. Whether the surveillance power of everyday citizens is utilised in a positive or negative context, the ability to publish a story into the public domain is literally the click of a few buttons away.

Image via Shutterstock

The power of citizen journalism to be used as a watch-dog for the justice system has been demonstrated in recent years with cases of police brutality and corruption within the police force being exposed by surveilling citizens. As Bryce Clayton Newell discusses; “Citizens recording police, a form of action that has been coined ‘sousveillance’ (surveillance from underneath) or the ‘participatory panopticon’ has been become increasingly common in recent years” (Newell, 2014, p.59).

Citizen journalism can have an impact on the public’s perception of law enforcment and its legitimacy and can be used to hold police officers accountable for their misconduct. The subway shooting of Oscar Grant in San Francisco in 2009 is an example of this- bystanders recorded the shooting on their phones and the footage was released to media stations and youtube- which eventually led to the conviction of the police officer who carried out the shooting (Newell, 2014, p.61).

On the flip-side, modern surveillance technology is also allowing those in power- such as law enforcement- to have a greater ability to track and monitor members of the public. As Newell discusses- “In recent years, police officers and law enforcement agencies have been conducting increasingly sophisticated (and intensive) information gathering through visual and spacial surveillance of citizens and public spaces” (Newell, 2014, p.60). Greater use of surveillance may be viewed as a measure of protection for members of society, though as Kingsley Dennis discusses- it could also become an intrusion of privacy (Dennnis, 2008, p.351).

Citizen journalism or ‘smartphone journalism’ may be beneficial for exposing wrong doing within society (particularly with those abusing their power) through citizen vigilantism, though the ramifications for professional journalists could be dire. News corporations may have the option to publish breaking stories from members of the public at little or no cost, which leaves the role of the journalist redundant. Citizen journalists with little knowledge of journalistic ethical conduct have the potential to land themselves in hot water or breach privacy laws.


Dennis, K 2008, Keeping a close watch- the rise of self-surveillance and the threat of digital exposure, Sociological Review Vol.56 Issue 3, p.351

Newell, BC 2014, Crossing Lenses: policing’s new visibility and the role of “smartphone journalism” as a form of freedom- preserving reciprocal surveillance, Journal of Law Technology & Policy; Spring2014, Vol.2014 Issue 1, pp. 59-61




10 thoughts on “Surveillance From Underneath

  1. Power to the people! This is a very interesting post, Birralee! It’s a good summary of some of the positive and negative aspects of surveillance. I like how you’ve broken the post up with plenty of media. It might be easier for you to try out pixabay or, for some creative commons stuff that is free to use without watermarks. You also did well with all the links in the text. It seems you did a fair bit of research for this. Nice one, cheers!


  2. Hi Birralee,

    Fantastic post! I absolutely love your discussion here and think that citizen journalism, reporting ‘from the bottom up’,is one of the most fascinating ways that modern mobile technology is creating definite societal shifts. By viewing the positives from a number of perspectives – both the everyday citizen and the authoritative institutions and individuals – you have presented a well-rounded and comprehensive analysis that is very insightful.
    Your discussion of the positives of this new-age journalism are detailed, however you touch briefly on the possible negatives in the last two paragraphs and this could be expanded upon even more to further enhance your already excellent post!
    Really great job with your embedded tweets, the articles they reference create added depth and build upon your discussion. Perhaps have a go at incorporating some creative commons images!

    Awesome work!


  3. Hi Birralee, enjoyed reading your blog about something which is happening more within the journalism profession. Not hard to see that citizen journalism influences so many more news stories these days thanks to technological advances. It seems pressure is coming from all directions when considering the future prospects within this industry. Great embedding of your tweets and images. I notice that the pictures you include in this blog are from Shutterstock. Are they Creative Commons images? Try searching for some CC images and practice giving the proper attribution to them. I tend to use a lot from Flickr which are linked to CC. Take a look and keep up the great writing. Joe.


  4. Citizen Journalism for the win! Great work on the blog post Birralee. Citizen journalism is definitely a trend worth keeping an eye on, especially since as it becomes more prevalent in society.
    The effective use of referencing added robustness to the blog post which really helped with conceptualizing the concepts being discussed throughout the post.
    Other than that some of the images could be easily replaced from sites such as Flickr. By doing this it is possible to check if the image has a creative commons license. I haven’t seen too many water marks on images on Flickr either which would also be beneficial.
    Other than that, keep up the interesting blog posts. Kilian.


  5. All in all this was a very solid blog post Birralee, there are many aspects which make it interesting and intriguing to read. Your blog post was very well researched; it was very engaging and easy to read thanks to your use of relevant case studies such as the “Oscar Grant Shooting”. These case studies really personalized this blog post and made it very easy for me to understand ‘Citizen Journalism’ in great depth. My only advice for the future is to use less unnecessary links and use references in moderation; for instance it would have been great to see some personalized Tweets, rather than just links to other relevant articles. However with that being said this was still a very engaging and interesting blog post.

    Good work!!


  6. Hi Birralee, great post! The discussion shows the citizen journalism well and I love the way you point out the ‘surveillance from underneath’ with images and tweets. Good Job!


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