Associate Professor Gavin J.D. Smith

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

Areas of expertise

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

Research interests

I am a generalist sociologist interested in the social impacts of digital technologies, data practices and dataveillance.

My research looks at how and why particular bodies and behaviours come to be codified as defective, by whom, and the effects of these discourses and related measures on subjectivity and resultant modes of social action.

To this effect, I analyse the political economic processes and cultural circumstances responsible for the creation—and consequent governance—of 'excessive' behaviours that pertain to acts of food, alcohol and drug consumption, violence, speeding, body management and data-sharing.

I also look at how individuals and groups creatively struggle against forces and technologies which operate to marginalise or dominate them. I am therefore interested in cultural practices of resistance that seek to either undermine the legitimacy or subvert the power of particular systems of authority.

I have written extensively about how digital data are a transformative medium and force both compressing and stretching social life and relations. 

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 six research projects:

  1. Experiences of the surveillant gaze from the perspective of those watching and those being watched
  2. The experience of incarceration for women inmates
  3. Perceptions of corruption in the Australian public service
  4. The medico-legal borderland of the abortion procedure in Australia
  5. The organisation and experience of urban nightlife cultures
  6. The affects of digital media on young people's appetites, lifestyles and behaviours

Available student projects

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

Current student projects

'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:  18 April 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers