Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield

I was born in London in 1960, I studied Sociology at the University of Sussex, graduating in 1981. In 1982 I was awarded an ERSC Studentship to undertake an M.Sc in Social Research Methods at the University of Surrey. It was here that my interest in the sociology of crime and social control was first kindled. As part of our course we had to undertake a compulsory placement with a research outfit. I found myself seconded to the Police Foundation for six weeks to undertake a study of police patrolling. This serendipitous placement laid the foundations of my future interests. Not only did it become the basis for my M.Sc dissertation, but led to my commitment to a sociology based on first-hand observation; a love of the adrenaline rush of high speed chases in the name of research; and a sustained interest in the sociology of social control. It also saw me ideally placed to apply for a linked ESRC PhD scholarship in 1983 to study the sociology of policing under the direction of Dr. Nigel Fielding at the University of Surrey. My fieldwork returned me to the world police chases, the boredom of the police canteen at 3 am and even found me living in a police station for two months. Despite the lure of the field I completed my doctorate entitled 'Avoiding Trouble - an observation study of police patrolling in two police forces' in 1986 whilst simultaneously being employed as a research officer on a two year ESRC project to evaluate the impact of community policing initiatives.

1987 saw me take up a temporary, one year, teaching post at the then Ealing College of Higher Education (now Thames Valley University) and in 1988 a permanent post at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University) to teach the sociology of deviance, criminal justice and social research methods. I moved to Hull to become a lecturer in Criminology in 1993 and began to develop my research profile and interest in the sociology of surveillance. I started with an ESRC grant to explore the subterranean world of the police use of informers, and then in the wake of the tragic killing of toddler Jamie Bulger, a grant to examine the social impact of CCTV surveillance. In 1998 I was awarded funding by the ESRC to run a series of seminars on Surveillance. This for the first time brought together interdisciplinary researchers concerned with the social impact of the new surveillance technologies. As a direct result we established a free online journal entitled Surveillance & Society - of which I am one of the founding editors. At present I am working on a comparative study of the social impact of CCTV in seven European countries.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield