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Surveillance Technologies & Cultural Transformation

Summer University Term 3: July 22nd - August 16th, 2019


Course price: 1,950 Euros

18 hours of class per week, 5 ECTS credit points, max. 24 participants

Registration deadline is June 22nd, 2019.


How have surveillance technologies transformed culture and identity in post-9/11 worlds? As Jonathan Finn has stated, through digitalisation as well as public space cameras, surveillance has become a “way of seeing, a way of being” (2012). Social media users contribute by sharing their personal information in the online public domain – today’s “Funopticon” (Lewis 2017) is all about self-exposure. This course will examine the effect of surveillance technology on society by looking at the multifaceted ways technologies and societies interact. In order to tackle this complex question we will explore how surveillance is represented in contemporary art, literature, film and popular culture – which famously mirror and reflect society. The omnipresence of surveillance jeopardizes the hard fought enlightened right to privacy, individuality and freedom. The course will map out important themes revolving around surveillance and its repercussions (e.g. visibility, identity, privacy, and control as essential elements of today's culture of surveillance). The course provides an overview of the interdisciplinary field of surveillance and covers the latest research in the following major areas:

  • Relationship between surveillance, power and social control
  • The concept of privacy
  • Surveillance in the arts and popular culture

The first unit of the course offers an introduction into the history and theory of surveillance and surveillance technology (e.g. close-circuit television (CCTV) in public and quasi-public spaces, biometrics, data mining, monitoring technologies in cyberspaces, workplaces and private spaces). The second unit investigates films, novels, art and popular culture (e.g. Reality Television and Social Networking Sites) that prominently address the subject. Readings will be drawn from the social sciences, contemporary fiction and popular media. Several films will be shown to facilitate critical inquiry.

Learning Goals and Syllabus


  • Understanding the origins of surveillance in contemporary society
  • Critical assessment of the changing social processes and the cultural production against the backdrop of surveillance and technology
  • General knowledge of the field of critical surveillance studies and contemporary cultures of surveillance
  • Employing the theoretical frameworks concerning surveillance and identity
  • Examining the effects of surveillance on individuals, social organization, cultural production (e.g. through analysing art work, novels, films)


You can find the syllabus for this course HERE. 

Course Components

  • Reading: Introduction into social theory/surveillance theory. Reader with relevant essays on the topic will be provided, including text excerpts from fiction (predominantly novels) dealing with surveillance.
  • Critical Film/Theory Review: Writing exercises (e.g. short review, 1000-1500 words, analyzing one of the suggested surveillance films/novels/art works), while referring to one of the major theoretical concepts introduced in the first unit (writing exercise in class or home assignment depending on feasibility)
  • Presentations: Students will be asked to prepare mini-presentations (5 minutes each) on assigned topics (depending on feasibility, they can be prepared in group activities during class). These presentations should raise many questions and will therefore facilitate class discussions.


The general prerequisites of the TU Berlin Summer University are the following: at least one year of university experience + English level B2 or equivalent.


Dr. Betiel Wasihun is a lecturer at the Institute of Philosophy, Literary Studies, History of Science at the Technological University of Berlin. She holds a PhD in German Studies from the University of Heidelberg.

Before having been awarded an IPODI-Marie Curie Fellowship for international female researchers in 2017, she worked as a Montgomery-DAAD Fellow and Lecturer in Modern German Literature at the University of Oxford (Lincoln College and Somerville College) as well as a Research and Teaching Fellow at the German Department of Yale University.

Kafka was an ongoing research topic for Dr. Wasihun. In 2010 she published a monograph on the phenomenon of competition in selected texts by Kafka, R. Walser and Beckett, with a primary focus on Kafka (Heidelberg: Winter). In 2013 she co-edited the volume Playing False: Representations of Betrayal (Oxford: Lang).

Her current research examines how global surveillance technology affects the way stories are narrated. She explores the influence of technologies and theories of surveillance on story  telling as well as on identity and culture.

Please direct questions about the course to the TU Berlin Summer University Team at: . We will answer your questions and direct specific queries regarding course content to the course lecturers where necessary.


Registration for Term 3 is now closed. Check out our program for Term 4 or Winter 2020!

Brochure & Poster Download

Check out our Brochure and Poster for Summer 2018! 

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Beth Sibly, Director
+49 30 4472 0230