David Lyon (sociologist)

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Professor David Lyon at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

David Lyon directs the Surveillance Studies Centre, is a Professor of Sociology, holds a Queen’s Research Chair and is cross-appointed as a Professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

Best known internationally for his work in Surveillance Studies, and for concepts he has developed, such as "social sorting," Lyon also teaches and researches in the areas of information society, globalization, secularization, and postmodernity. He is co-editor of the journal Surveillance & Society, Associate Editor of The Information Society and is on the international editorial board of a number of other academic journals.

In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association Communication and Information Technology Section in 2007 and an Outstanding Contribution Award from Canadian Sociological Association in 2012. From 2008-2010 Lyon was a Killam Research Fellow, the highest fellowship awarded by the Canada Council.

He has held visiting appointments in a number of universities including Auckland, Edinburgh, Leeds, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, the Centre for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Lyon received a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in social science and history at the University of Bradford in Yorkshire, UK, during which he became interested in the driving forces behind and social consequences of some major transformations of the modern world.

Sociology and Religion[edit]

Lyon’s dissertation focused on the historical sociology of belief-change in Victorian England and his early work explored the mutual relations of Christian social thought and the social sciences in works such as Karl Marx: A Christian Appreciation of his Life and Thought (1979) and Sociology and the Human Image (1983).

The Steeple’s Shadow: On the Myths and Realities of Secularization (1986), questioned theories which suggest that religious belief and practice decline with the coming of modernity. Locally, he wrote a parish study of St James’ Anglican church, Kingston; Living Stones (1995).

Jesus in Disneyland (2000) investigated the ways in which religious activities are affected by the so-called postmodern turn, and the co-edited (with Marguerite Van Die) Rethinking Church, State and Modernity: Canada between Europe and America (2000) examined the question from the perspective of political sociology.

More recently, Lyon has contributed to the debate over the “post-secular” (for example "Being post-secular in the social sciences: Charles Taylor’s social imaginaries” New Blackfriars, 91: 648-662, 2010).

Surveillance and Technology[edit]

During the 1980s Lyon examined how new technologies are involved in social change and tried to provide a balanced assessment in books such as The Information Society: Issues and Illusions (1988).

In a short book on Postmodernity (1994) he suggested that currently fashionable theoretical debates had to be understood in relation to social changes, especially the development of new media and the cultural prominence of consumerism.

The most critical questions raised by his work on social aspects of new technologies has to do with the processing of personal data, leading to The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society (1994). This blossomed into a research program that became increasingly collaborative, international and multi-disciplinary. Key concepts, such as Lyon’s “social sorting” have become part of the Surveillance Studies lexicon and serve to remind that while the significance of “privacy” is not to be minimized, broader questions of ethics and social justice, including civil liberties and human rights, are prompted by the intensification of surveillance.

Lyon’s sole-authored books should be seen in parallel with the edited collections (listed below) but they follow a certain trajectory. The argument of The Electronic Eye was complemented by Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life (2001) that focused on global developments and the increasing use of the body as a source of data, and then by Surveillance after September 11 (2003) that emphasized the geo-political frame in which a major event was used as a pretext for expanding surveillance and the diminution of human rights for (permanently) exceptional circumstances. This book also exposes some deeper issues raised by surveillance today, that capitalize on fear, suspicion and secrecy. The effort to understand surveillance per se culminates in the ironically titled Surveillance Studies: An Overview (2007) in which Lyon laid out dynamically what for him are the key features of Surveillance Studies.

Identification and Ethics[edit]

These shifts in research emphasis continue, each time building on past insights. Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance (2009) picked up on themes explored by Lyon since the late 1980s but also relating to more recent technical and political developments. The parallel volume here is the co-edited (with Colin Bennett) Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective (2008). Each book makes reference to Lyon’s concept of the “card cartel” as a means of understanding the political economy of IDs at a time when “showing ID” has become a central – and novel – feature of social relations around the world.

Equally, confronting the ethical questions thrown up by the social and political analysis of surveillance has been integral to Lyon’s work over many years but such basic issues are again coming to the fore in his current work (for example in “Liquid Surveillance: the Contribution of Zygmunt Bauman to Surveillance Studies” International Political Sociology, 4: 325-338, 2010). These also relate to Lyon’s surveillance research initiatives in such different places as Israel and the Middle East, and the global south, particularly Latin America.

Selected works[edit]

  • Lyon, D; Zygmunt Bauman (2013). Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation. Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-6283-1. 
  • Lyon, D (2012). Kirstie Ball; Kevin Haggerty, eds. Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-58883-6. 
  • Lyon, D (2011). Aaron Doyle; Randy Lippert, eds. Eyes Everywhere: The Global Growth of Camera Surveillance. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-69655-5. 
  • Lyon, D (2010). Elia Zureik; Yasmeen Abu-Laban, eds. Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine: Population, Territory, Power. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-58861-4. 
  • Lyon, D (2009). Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance. Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-4156-0. 
  • Lyon, D (2008). Bennett, C, ed. Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-92713-7. 
  • Lyon, D (2007). Surveillance Studies: An Overview. Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-3592-7. 
  • Lyon, D. (2009). Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance. Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-4156-0. 
  • Lyon, D. (2006). Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and Beyond. Willan. ISBN 978-1-84392-191-2. 
  • Lyon, D (2003). Surveillance After September 11. Polity. ISBN 0-7456-3181-9. 
  • Lyon, D. (2003). Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Digital Discrimination. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-27873-2. 
  • Lyon, D (2001). Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life. Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-20546-1. 
  • Lyon, D (1996). Zureik, E, ed. Computers, Surveillance and Privacy. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-2653-7. 
  • Lyon, D (1994). The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-2515-8. 
  • Lyon, D (1999). Postmodernity 2nd ed. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3227-8. 
  • Lyon, D (1988). The Information Society: Issues and Illusions. Polity. ISBN 0-7456-0369-6. 
  • Lyon, D (2000). Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times. Polity. ISBN 0-7456-1489-2. 

External links[edit]