Associate Professor Gavin J.D. Smith

M.A. (Sociology), M.Res. (Social Research Methods), Ph.D. (Sociology)
Associate Professor of Sociology
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Social Theory 160806
  • Sociology And Social Studies Of Science And Technology 160808
  • Environmental Sociology 160802
  • Landscape Ecology 050104

Research interests

I am a generalist sociologist and snake ecologist interested in conceptualising more-than-human relations in various ecosocial fields.

That is to say, I am interested in the social relations that shape and emerge from interactions that occur between human and non-human social agents, things and environments.

Most of my research has explored the social impacts of surveillance, specifically looking at the intersubjective meanings ascribed to everyday practices of watching and being watched, be that through CCTV camera surveillance systems or via social media cultures. I am now actively researching these kinds of relations as they pertain to the use of facial recognition technologies in various contexts as part of an ARC Discovery Project, When your face is your ID: Public responses to automated facial recognition (2020-2024)

Other current research I'm doing explores the ambiguous figure of the snake in Australian society. This is a double edged project examining social and cultural perceptions of snakes, both historically and in the contemporary period, but also how social agents engage with these animals in everyday life. Building on the sociality of snakes, the second component of the research involves conducting snake ecology research, and tracking a sample of Eastern brown snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) in Canberra to better determine habitat use and movement profiles post-release. 

Twitter: @gavin_jd_smith


I joined ANU in 2012. I was previously a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at The University of Sydney and a Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at City University London. Prior to joining the academy, I completed an ESRC-funded PhD (2009) at The University of Aberdeen on the culture of CCTV operation. I hold from the same university an MA in Sociology and an MRes in Social Research Methods.

While in Sydney, I helped establish The Surveillance and Everyday Life Research Group, an interdisciplinary collective of scholars interested in the cultural drivers and impacts of surveillance practices. The group's activities have resulted in special issues/sections of Surveillance & Society (2013), Critical Public Health (2013) and Body & Society (2016).

I am an international collaborator on The New Transparency Project (an MCRI project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) and an editor of Surveillance & Society. I am on the executive board of the Surveillance Studies Network. I have previously been a Research Associate in the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford, and a Visiting Researcher at Concordia University, Canada. I am currently a Visiting Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science at The University of Edinburgh. I am also a Research Associate in The Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London, and an International Research Associate in the Centre for Business Information Ethics, Meiji University, Japan. I am regularly consulted by the media on surveillance and security matters.

Researcher's projects

I am currently engaged in four research projects:

1. Exploring the rise and social implications of facial recognition technologies in society from the perspective of those watching and those being watched.

2. The ecology and behaviour of urban-adapted Eastern brown (Pseudonaja textilis) snakes in Canberra. 

3. The ecosocial dimensions of rewilding practices, reintroduction biology and sanctuary nature.

4. The lived experience of incarceration and community release for women inmates.

Available student projects

Gavin particularly welcomes enquiries from doctoral candidates on any of the above topics.

Current student projects

'An exploration of women's experiences of incarceration and release', Kym Lindeman, PhD Candidate.

'A socio-ecological analysis of re-wilding in conservation practices', Cameron Boyle, PhD Candidate.

'The dynamics of privacy and surveillance amongst the employees of highly bureaucratized organisations', Catherine Petrass, PhD Candidate.

'The capture, governance and politics of mental health and wellness forums', Ben Hemmings, PhD Candidate.

Past student projects

2018, 'The biopolitics of abortion: medical gatekeeping the moral order' (Jennifer Beattie, PhD awarded)

2020, 'How corruption is perceived and addressed in local government' (Allan Yates, PhD awarded) 

2020, 'Exploring community wildlife conservation action, Eleanor Armstrong

2020, 'Exploring the structure and culture of virtual nightlife', Eliza Benson

2019, 'Compliance of Employment Digital Tracking Programs: The Complication of Employee Enacted Subjectivity', Paul Bowell, First Class Honours

2017, 'Liquid Data: Self-tracking and the Quantified Self', Ben Vonthethoff, First Class Honours

'The gendering of prison space: female experiences of incarceration in Australia'

'Humour as an Affective Strategy Mediating Tourist/Tourism Interplays'

'The use of Counter-Surveillance Measures by Activists at Political Protests'

'Reassurance Policing in Nigeria'

'Preadolescent Children, Popular Culture and Appearance-Focused Advertising'

'Semiotics and the Culture Industries'

'Blogging as a Form of Political Engagement: A Middle East Case Study'


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  20 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers