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 systems.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 electronic communication.
David Lyon is Professor and Head of Department of Sociology at Queena s University, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of several books including The Information Society (Polity, 1988).