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The Watched City: CCTV Surveillance and Urban Power

Urban Studies Senior Thesis, Barnard College, Columbia University
Submitted April 20, 2016

Abstract:This thesis is an investigation into the way that mass video surveillance creates power structures in cities. It contributes to the field of urban surveillance studies by uncovering the nature of these power structures, and applying them to the system of surveillance in Manhattan, New York. To this end, a comprehensive study into the practice of surveillance in Manhattan is conducted, as well as fieldwork that determines the spatial distribution of CCTV cameras in Manhattan. It is found that certain areas of the city are disproportionately affected by surveillance, which share common characteristics of race, income, and land use. Ultimately, it is argued that while CCTV surveillance can be a useful technology, in practice it creates and reinforces urban power imbalances.