William G. Staples is Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the Surveillance Studies Research Center at the University of Kansas. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA. Staples is well-known internationally for his work in the areas of social control and surveillance. He is the author of five books and dozens of articles and chapters. His most recent work is the second edition of Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life, considered a foundational work in the interdisciplinary field of Surveillance Studies. Staples is past Co-Editor of Sociological Inquiry, The Sociological Quarterly, and Associate Editor of Surveillance & Society, the international journal of the Surveillance Studies Network.
Consistent with the work of Paulo Freire, I see knowledge as a process rather than a commodity to be distributed by "experts." Within this view, students are active participants in their own education rather than passive receptors of the chosen word. I want my students to take their own understandings and experiences seriously and reflectively. This empowerment model of education demands a fundamental respect of the student which I believe they all deserve. I see my role as a sociologist to help my students develop three basic skills: historical sensibility, cultural insight, and analytic critique. I believe that these notions are the central focus of our discipline as well as the foundation of a liberal arts education. No matter the level—from freshmen First Year Seminars and Honors Tutorials to advanced level graduate seminars— I seek to create a classroom that is open, supportive, and student-centered. I encourage students to take an active role at every turn. Each class I teach involves a combination of "active-learning" techniques, expressive writing, and empirical research.
- Surveillance Studies
- Social Control
- Historical Sociology
- Research methods
I am a historical and cultural sociologist working within the interpretive tradition. For more than three decades I have produced a body of work exploring various forms of discipline, power, and authority and the social and cultural mechanisms that reproduce them. My aim has been to understand the processes by which individual lives are shaped and defined within social institutions, organizations, discourses, and practices. In my earliest work, this agenda was expressed in a series of articles on the application of law in the justice system and later, in my writing on the methods and discourses of the human sciences. As I expanded my historical scope and refined my conceptual frame, I have concentrated on developing socio-historical accounts of "disciplinary regimes" (i.e., techniques of control founded on rationality, surveillance, and knowledge) and on exploring the political and material means of their origins and development. This agenda took me in a number of different yet thematically linked directions. For example, two early projects addressed central issues of the birth of modernity: the rise of the bureaucratic state and the development of capitalism. In Castles of Our Conscience, I offered an account of the relationship between state-building and the emergence of the prison, the asylum, and the poor house in the US (1800-1985). And in Power, Profits, and Patriarchy, with my co-author we constructed a detailed case study of the unequal power and authority relations of gender, class, and age in the British metal-trades (1791-1922). Although different in substance, both projects explore the nature and development of disciplinary regimes, one between citizen and state, the other between workers and the owners of capital.
I continued to investigate the ways in which lives are shaped, influenced, and ordered within organizational and community settings. In The Culture of Surveillance I focused on those contemporary social control techniques—often enhanced by the use of new information, visual, communication, and medical technologies—that target and treat the body as an object to be watched, assessed, and manipulated. I have argued that these new disciplinary techniques must be understood as products of both important, long-term processes set in motion with the onset of modernity, as well as part of the cultural context of postmodernity. I took this book to a new publisher and an updated and expanded edition first appeared in 2000 as Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life; a completely revised second edition appeared in 2014. It is today considered a foundational work in the field of Surveillance Studies. My work on surveillance also led me to edit a two-volume, award-winning reference work, the Encyclopedia of Privacy.
Most recently, I have completed collecting extensive archival material and have begun writing a new monograph tentatively titled, Documenting the Body; Creating the Self: A Social and Cultural History of the Modern Birth Certificate. This project will offer a unique history of birth registration in the United States?from its formal establishment in the early 20th century until today—as both a strategy of personal identification needed to govern the population at large and as a mechanism that ascribes to a newborn individual identity and social status. The quality of my scholarship has recognized by scholarly organizations and I have been awarded the 2015 Surveillance Studies Network Book Prize, the 2012 KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Craig Anthony Arnold Faculty Innovation Award and the 2011 Balfour Jeffrey Research Award in Humanities and Social Sciences, the latter being one of four Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards, the most prestigious state-wide research honors for faculty at Kansas Board of Regents institutions.
- Surveillance Studies
- Social Control
- Historical Sociology
- Cultural Sociology
Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC). $300000.00. Submitted 3/31/2017 (10/1/2017 - 9/30/2019). Not-for-Profit (not Foundation). Status: Funded