Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment

Title chapter: ‘It’s like they’re looking inside your body or inside your brain.’ Internet surveillance practices in a special school
Author: Herminder Kaur
Keywords: Internet, surveillance, disability, teenagers, privacy, resistance
Abstract: This chapter reflects on the struggle of a small cohort of teenagers with physical disabilities to resist surveillance when they use the internet in a special school, in England. Findings obtained from an ethnographic study with eleven students with physical disabilities in a special school revealed, students internet access and use was under two forms of surveillance, (i) physical and (ii) virtual. Each form of surveillance is discussed with reference to a case study which challenges the idea of the panopticon in the school. The first case study of a young girl, Bruna finds the physical presence of adult staff becoming oppressive and intrusive. She turns to the online realm to find a private space to socialize with friends and family. Her story highlights her daily struggle to resist the physical surveillance she is under when using the internet on her personal device in the school. The second story discusses how a young male named John, comes to learn of the virtual surveillance he is under when he uses a school laptop at home for personal use. The two stories discussed in this chapter draw on the surveillance practices as experienced by teenagers with physical disabilities in a special school. To conclude the article argues the measures of resistance expressed by the students in the school, signal their need and struggle for online privacy, and questions whether extensive measures to monitor students’ use of the internet is justified by their disability.
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