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ID scanning, the media and the politics of urban surveillance in an Australian regional city

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-03-20, 00:00 authored by Darren Palmer, Ian WarrenIan Warren, Peter MillerPeter Miller
Computerised ID scanning technologies have permeated many urban night-time economies in Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. This paper documents how one media organisation’s overt and tacit approval of ID scanners helped to normalise this form of surveillance as a precondition of entry into most licensed venues in the Australian city of Geelong. After outlining how processes of governance “from above” and “from below” interweave to generate distinct political and media demands for strategies to prevent localised crime problems, a chronological reconstruction of media reports over a three-and-a half year period demonstrates how ID scanning became the centrepiece of a holistic reform strategy to combat alcohol-related violence in this nightclub precinct. Several discursive techniques helped to normalise this “technological fix”, while suppressing critical discussion of viable concerns over information privacy, data security and system networking. These
included pairing reports of an initial “signal crime” with examples of “virtual victimhood” to stress the urgency of a radical surveillance-based response, which was supported by anecdotal statements from key “primary definers” highlighting the success of this initiative in targeting a wider population of antisocial “others”. The implications of these reporting practices are discussed in light of the media’s central role in reforming the Geelong night-time economy and broader trends in using novel surveillance technologies to combat urban crime problems at the expense of alternative measures that protect individual liberty.



Surveillance & society






293 - 309


Surveillance Studies Network, Queens University


Kingston Ont.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2012, The Authors