The increasing influence of computers in modern societies has been
seen by some as offering great promise for the future, but by
others as menacing in the extreme. In this work David Lyon
investigates the validity of these two opposing points of view.
Whether making a phone call, claiming benefits, entering the
workplace or using a credit card, more and more daily activities
are recorded and traced using what are here called surveillance
Computerization vastly expands the surveillance capacity of all
forms of organization, including the state, but also extending to
the consumer marketplace. By analysing these various contexts of
surveillance activity, Lyon is able to offer a judicious
interpretation of the influence electronic information systems have
upon the social order today. The result is an interpretation of
modern social, political and economic institutions which goes far
beyond merely assessing the role of information technology.
Lyon provides an overview of such surveillance as a major
phenomenon of contemporary societies. But neither the optimistic
nor the pessimistic view of the role of information technology is
accurate. The reality is much more complex and subtle. In
unravelling these complexities Lyon makes a genuine contribution to
the understanding of modern institutions in an era of globalizing
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