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  • 00:11

    My name is Heather Morgan.I'm a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen.This case is called, "In what waysdo gender stereotypes inform the thoughts and actions of CCTVcontrol room operators?"And this is a police CCTV control room ethnography.As I said, I'm a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen.I'm a social scientist.And I specialize in using qualitative methodologies

  • 00:31

    to investigate research questions around issuesof social deviance, including crime, and alsoissues around gender and the use of surveillance technologies.So this case focuses on research that was part of my PhD.I undertook a police CCTV control room ethnography.Ethnography is where you study from the point of view

  • 00:52

    of the subject that you're studying.So, it's the systematic study of peoples or a culture.And the researcher takes the position of oneof the members of the group.So they spend time immersed in the setting, extended periodsof time participating and observingthe people who are a part of that system or culture

  • 01:13

    or group, with a view to getting a real in-depth perspectiveof life from their points of view.So the reason I undertook the studyis because when you look at the statistics,women always look less criminal than men.So if you look at prison statistics, court appearancestatistics, arrest statistics, you're really

  • 01:34

    seeing that across place and time womenare less criminal than men.But I was interested in why that might be.What underpins this?What are the reasons for that?And obviously, the academic literatureis helpful in that it provides some sort of explanation.However, the analysis and interpretationsof the statistical data point to theories

  • 01:54

    around sex differences, which obviouslyrely on that data that's there in the statistics.But that for me wasn't enough.It was how did these statistics come about?So I was really interested in looking at an every dayenvironment that was focusing on issues around devianceand crime, and where gender might play an important part.

  • 02:14

    So CCTV unit for me was somewherewhere these issues might be explored,particularly because CCTV operators areworking alongside police.But they're slightly detached from the real world.Their interface with the real worldis through the CCTV cameras.And so they have time to reflect and to thinkabout the kinds of decisions that they're making.When they're watching people, what kinds of things

  • 02:35

    are interesting?What kinds of things are they looking at, looking for?How long are they watching?When are they following up?When are they dropping things?When are they calling for backup?So it's these kinds of things that Ithought would be particularly interesting.And more so than perhaps followingand shadowing police in a police patrol caror interviewing people.It was to really get to the what's

  • 02:57

    done in that kind of decision-making process.It also has that visual element.With the CCTV screens, you can see what people are looking at.And you can listen to the ways that they'redescribing what's going on and the connections they'remaking between things.How they're making sense of the world that they're seeing.The stereotypes that they might be drawing on.Or, about every day common-sense knowledgethat they might be using to construct

  • 03:18

    the world that they're seeing and how they describe that,and how they use that to do their jobs.So in order to do this research, this proposed research, Ineeded to find a CCTV unit and I needed to get access.Luckily, I had already been undertaking some pilot researchin the city center focusing on shoplifting, which

  • 03:39

    involved a number of department stores and shopping mallsacross the city.And as part of that, I was in touchwith a local champion for a network of security servicesacross the city that focused on shoplifting.But she was in touch with the CCTV manager, the police CCTVmanager.And she suggested that we meet up.

  • 03:59

    And she set up a three-way meeting.That was really helpful because Iwas able to gain that sort of first-hand introduction.However, a few months prior to that,because I had wanted to undertake this researchwith the police CCTV unit, I had actually approached the policeHQ by letter.And I had sent them the details of the research I wanted to do.

  • 04:20

    I had received no reply.So this subsequent personal introductionwas really, really helpful from my point of view.The CCTV manager with great.He was really keen to have a researcherpresence in his unit, not least because he reallyhates the idea that CCTV gets a bad press.So he was keen to open up as a resource

  • 04:42

    for the local community, to the research community,and to have people coming in to lookat what CCTV operators actually do, and what it's about,and how it serves the community.So, it was a win-win situation from that point of view.And he started the ball rolling with the police clearancesthat I would need to go into the unit and the documentation Ineeded to sign to arrange the access.So that was under way when I heard

  • 05:04

    from the HQ, who responded to my letterand called me in for a meeting.So when I received the letter, I letthem know that actually I alreadyhad this informal introduction and the paperwork wasunder way.And so I then was retrospectivelycalled in for meeting to discuss who could give authorizationto conduct this research, and toes weren't trodden on,

  • 05:26

    and that kind of thing.So there was a bit of negotiation there.And really, the learning point was that I wasn't in control,but I had to negotiate with both parties whowere part of the same institutionand organization, who were both very willing to accommodate mebut had different requirements.So it was really about good communicationand being able to be responsive and flexible to the needs

  • 05:48

    of the force and not to damage research relationshipswith the CCTV unit.Because that was crucial.But as it turned out, it all worked welland we had a good resolution.And I was able to continue with the fieldwork in the CCTV unit.

  • 06:08

    Once I had access to the CCTV unit,it's not just about the CCTV itself.It's about the people in it.So the people in it obviously neededto consent to my research as well.It wasn't that they were on show, as it were.So once I had that informal introduction and [INAUDIBLE]up a relationship with the CCTV manager,

  • 06:30

    and my clearances were in place, I was able to visit the unit.And so the unit itself was probablyabout 8 by 10 feet wide.And maybe 10 feet, 12 feet long.One of the walls was floor to ceiling grids of CCTV cameras.They are very small boxes on the wall.

  • 06:50

    And then in front of that was three desks in a row,with kind of usual PC keyboard looking kit.But these screens were able to bring down one of the screensfrom the wall of screens so that the operators could focus in.And then within the console they had the pans and tilt functionon a joystick and a keyboard that

  • 07:13

    enabled them to move between different camera screens.Quite a tight feeling environment.Three people sat fairly closely together in quite a small room,with lots of tech equipment that was quite warm.So it was a quite warm environment.And there was one chair to the back that I was able to sit on.

  • 07:34

    It was an area where people who had been doing their jobwere able to type up notes towards the end of their shiftor during the shift handover.So really quite a small space with very few people in itat one time.But lots of screens.So I visited initially once per shift pattern.There was 15 operators in total.And they work in teams of three.

  • 07:56

    And they rotate on five shifts.So I visited each shift so that I could introduce myselfto the operators working individually, and to give thema letter and header note paper that would show themof my credentials and that I had police clearances,and to tell them a bit about the researchand what I was interested in, and whichI expressed as their perceptions of crime and deviance

  • 08:18

    and how they respond to what they watch on the screen,not specifically mentioning sex or gender,because I didn't want to bias the waythat they represent themselves or their work to me.And I asked them to consider the letterand I gave them the consent form,which I asked them to return if they were happy to participatein the research.So I was able to do that for most of the operators.

  • 08:38

    For people who were on holiday or sick,the manager was able to do that for me.A couple weeks later, I went back to collect the forms.And all but one operator had consentedto me doing the research.So that was fine.And I was able to start there, planning shiftsthat I would go to sit in on.But I had to avoid the shifts that he was working on.

  • 09:00

    So that meant that there were two other operators whoI didn't get to see unless he was on holiday or sick.And so it was quite important to beable to manage the shift pattern and get on top of thatso that I could make sure I got accessto all of the operators-- different timesof day and night, different lengths of shift patterns,sitting in for 8 hours, sitting in for 11 hours,

  • 09:22

    sitting in overnight.So I did three consecutive overnight shifts justto get a sense of what it felt to be an operator,not just to be dipping in and out, as it were.But I was able to get a good sense of the different peopleand how they work together.There were all-male shifts, the three male operators.All-female, three female.And mixed, as well.

  • 09:44

    So I was really keen to get access to all of those people.So once I was in there, it was great from the point of view,there were lots of opportunities to all kind-- dayand night, things going on across the city.At that point, when I first started my research,there were just over 80 cameras, which covered the city centerarea.And by the time I left, there were well

  • 10:05

    in excess of 100 cameras, which extended slightlybeyond the original perimeter.So there were lots of stuff going on at times.And lots of times of boredom, as well, when there was nothingreally going on.Lots of hours passing between, almost mundane activities,everyday activities, happening on the cameras.

  • 10:26

    But fairly quickly, I was able to integrate into the group.I initially started by sitting, positioning myselftowards the back of the room on the spare chair.But gradually, I was being included in conversationsand being shown things on the screen.So that meant that I was standing in between peopleand moving the chair around and being much closer to them,and also then being able to interact with them much more

  • 10:48

    naturally, that I wasn't observing them as much.I was also then being asked to make tea, coffee.And being bought tea and coffee by people.Towards the end of the research, I was being offered lifts home.I was invited on the staff night out.So I was quite confident that I hadbecome part and parcel of the CCTV unit during that time.

  • 11:11

    So the only time that I realized that I wasn'ta full member of the group-- and when others probablybecame aware of it-- was when somebody elsecame into the CCTV unit.So it might be a police officer whowas coming looking for some recording or to cometo speak to one of the operators to get himto focus on a particular thing.And they would come in and see that I wasn't in uniform.

  • 11:32

    I wasn't operating a camera.And so they might question who I was and might look at meslightly funny.And sometimes, it was a great opportunityto have a conversation about the researchand to reintroduce the idea of the research thatwas taking place.And some really interesting conversationswith different people about CCTV,about surveillance in the city, about what deviance looks

  • 11:53

    like, those kinds of things.So that elicited some rich data, as well.But I suppose it was ethically problematic from the pointof view of the people who were coming into the unit weren'taware that I was going to be thereand hadn't consented to the research.However, it was unfeasible to consent any potential visitorto come in when I was there.And it would have been operationally disastrous

  • 12:15

    and labor intensive for anyone doingthe paperwork around that.So I really just followed the leadof the development and governance departmentand the CCTV manager.And they were quite happy with how it was operating.It was fine for their purposes.So that was fine.Of course, the other people who weren't aware of the researchand couldn't consent to it were the peoplewho were appearing on camera.

  • 12:37

    The smile you're on CCTV people.There was no way that that could have-- the CCTV is therein public space.And research is happening quite often, anyway, when peopleare passing on and off camera.And of course, it wasn't really the watchedthat I was interested in.It was the watchers and the kinds of thingsthat they were interested in talking about,

  • 12:57

    rather than what the watched were doing.So in terms of ethics, I didn't feelthat that was too problematic.And that's certainly how I justify doing that research.So once I was in this CCTV unit, what I was essentially doingwas what we call ethnographic fieldwork.And so I was there, I was observing, I was participating.

  • 13:21

    And that changed over time and changedbetween shifts to what extent I was either observingor participating.I conducted over 500 hours of fieldwork in the CCTV unit.And this was spread over nine months of more intensivevisits, and then a further nine months of moretargeted intermittent visiting.

  • 13:44

    So the first nine months was reallyabout rapport building in those initial stages.And then looking at what was going on and collectingsome initial data.And the way I collected that was notthrough the usual means of using a dictaphone or using a cameraor taking detailed notes.It just wasn't possible to do that.I certainly wouldn't have had permission

  • 14:05

    to use any digital equipment within the unit becauseof the radios and the police operations that were ongoing.But even in terms of note taking,I did have a notepad with me.But it was very difficult to sit in the backand write things about people, about what was going on.And in fact, this was remarked upon to meby one of the operators, who said, it's really nice,

  • 14:26

    look at our body language, the way wesat with position towards you.So that must mean that we trust you.And I said, what do you mean.And she said, well, we've had people in here before,and they sit with their notepads and they write stuff about us.And it's like we're being spied on.And you don't do that.So how are you doing this research?So it was quite interesting be able to talkabout ethnographic methods, even with the operators

  • 14:47

    and to say, well, what I actuallydo is when I get in my car, after I've finished here,I've got a dictaphone on the front seat,and I just blast out as much as I can rememberon my hour journey home.And from there, I type up notes, either that dayor the next day from what I can remember and flesh outthose notes over a period of time,re-immerse myself in the shift that I've just sat in on,

  • 15:09

    the kinds of things that I saw, the kinds of thingsthat were said, and the activities thathappened-- who left the room, who came in at what point, whojoined in, who said what.And sometimes my immediate recordingwould capture quite a lot of that.But it was an ounce of thinking about it,and even sometimes visiting the unit again, and then saying

  • 15:31

    to someone, what's that he said about that.I found that really interesting.And then building that back into my field notes.So I ended up with quite large documentsof typed documentation of what had happenedand what I had noticed and what I had picked up,and then, if I had revisited, what people had said.So that became my research data-- the field notes.

  • 15:54

    And then with them, I was able to compare and contrastwhat different shifts were perhaps saying,what different people in different shifts were doing.Perhaps slight differences in the waysthat people would describe thingsthat I would pick up and think wereinteresting in terms of gender stereotypes.And then, so during the second lot of nine months,

  • 16:16

    I was able to then go back and perhaps think,I wonder what that shift is like during an evening,or I really need to speak to that operatorbut I haven't seen them for awhile, so make sureI need to go in on that week when they're back from holidaysand that kind of thing.So I was able to target visits more and build upthe data that way.It was a process of constantly comparing the kinds of things

  • 16:37

    that were coming out of the themes that were emerging,and revisiting those with the operatorsand through immersing myself in the unit again.And it was also really to keep inand to keep the operators interested.You can't just go in for nine months and do lots of workand then just leave.It was really about collecting the data that I needed to

  • 16:58

    but also winding down the process at the exit.You can't just walk away and forget that these people havebeen a part of your life.And you've been a part of their life for a processand of time in quite an intensive way,in a small room where there are just four people.So, it's really important to be thinking about those thingswhen doing ethnography and the impact

  • 17:19

    that you're having on the environmentand the people in it.In terms of, then, the actual findings of the research,there have been no hypothesis that therewas a particular relationship between sex and gender or crimeand deviance, apart from what the literature suggests.But in doing research, is was really

  • 17:39

    about understanding how the operators seethe social world and the stories they constructaround the people that they're seeing,and the ways that they describe what they're doingand how important it is or isn't, or what it means.And so I was able to find was that the ways in which theyconstruct gender and deviance, they'rekind of bound up together in this very complex and nuanced

  • 18:01

    way.And because I've spent so many hours sitting in that CCTVunit, I've had lots of different instancesof deviance, crime, sometimes.But more likely social deviance rather than crime.And the way that it was either interpretedthrough the lens of sex, or the same with sexbeing interpreted through the lens of gender.

  • 18:22

    So they're really bound up in this very complex way wherethey are co-constructed and co-produced, in theoryand in practice.And these different instances highlighted new waysof seeing the relationship between sex gender and crimeand deviance.Not just the statistics look like this therefore women

  • 18:43

    are less criminal than men.It's much, much more complex.And there's lots going on around the stereotypes peopleuse and the knowledge that they're drawing on,examples from popular culture, from their own learning,from their own upbringing.And that knowledge that they bring and then usein their interpretations which, of course,

  • 19:04

    we don't really know what they see on the screen.Sometimes they're picking up on things clearly-- crimes--and they're able to report those.But the deviances and the things that they'redescribing about people-- we don't know if they're true.But they're not interacting with the people.It's just a description of a social world through this lens.

  • 19:24

    So the insights that ethnography in that CCTV control roomgave me, the opportunities to be able to see this first-hand,not just through analysis of data that was presented,but of data that I was a part of,a social work that I had contributedto the construction of, was really, really rich,and really important to gain those insights.

  • 19:47

    So, it's also really important because itwasn't just about what operator said they were doing.It was also about what they were actually doing.So with interviews, you get quite a limited chanceto talk to people anyway.And then, it's really about what they say they do.Whereas, this kind of extended period of timeenabled me to really get to gripswith what people do when they feel comfortable

  • 20:08

    and that you're not conspicuous in the room anymore.They're not on show.So that was really important.And so, in terms of the appropriatenessof the methods for doing this research,it was essential to have been able to do this ethnography,really, to uncover the kinds of datathat I did manage to uncover and to do it in a different way.

  • 20:28

    And of course, we have ethnographyin lots of different places.But in terms of CCTV, we have a few, but nonethat focused on gender.So this was also another contribution of the study.In terms of challenges, as I described,the actual collection of the data.It could be described as challenging in that I

  • 20:49

    wasn't able to record stuff.And it was really largely based on my mental notesand then recording those and being able to type those upafterwards.But because of the length of time that I was there,and how many times I was going, Ifeel that I had built up a good sense of the unit,the dynamics of the different shiftpatterns, the different people, and the different events,

  • 21:09

    particularly when people have maybe reflected backon events that happened the last time they had seen me.And I was able to then check their dataand validate it against those instances.The other thing that was challengingwas probably the ethics of getting inand that double-pronged access that emerged.

  • 21:32

    Although, as I said, good communication and beingresponsive and flexible really does help with thatand being able to negotiate and come to a resolutionthat is suitable for everyone.And remembering that you're not in control,that you're asking people to open up their spacesand to allow you in.And so it's really important to have good connections

  • 21:52

    with people and be able to work with them,rather than make demands of them.And in those terms, actually, good relationshipsare really important to maintain.So as I mentioned about the researcher,you can't just exit.But not only that, you should be leaving itas a safe place for researchers whomay follow you to come back to.

  • 22:14

    So, for example, I still have a really goodworking relationship with the CCTV unit where I was.The manager is different now, but we continueto catch up on a regular basis.And the research that I've done has alsobeen fed back through continuing professional developmenttraining at Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.And also through Scottish Institute for Policing Research

  • 22:35

    and Scottish Center for Criminal Justice Research,at practitioner training events.So it's all about sharing the data so that it can be useful.So my observations and the research that I had conducted,and data that I was able to collectto my own interpretations of it and reflections on it,have been shared with the community.And their responses have helped me

  • 22:58

    certainly to shape future work.So it's really important to give backbut also to maintain those good connectionsso that other researchers can go inand the reputation of your university or your researchis kept good.In conclusion, through this ethnography,I was able to conduct detailed ethnographic research

  • 23:20

    on issues of deviance and crime and the ways in which a CCTVunit are able to pick up on that in every day,dynamic, social processes that they'reobserving through surveillance.And to look for instances of sex and genderand the connections between crime, deviance, sex,and gender.

  • 23:40

    And how they are manifested in operators,how they're picking up on the images that they're seeing,the verbal explications they're giving of what they're seeing.And to draw conclusions from those,through populating an analytical framework thatlooks at crime, deviance, sex, genderin much more nuanced and detailed complex ways

  • 24:03

    and the different ways in which they are merged together.To draw some very rich conclusionsaround the relationship between sex gender and crime deviance.And also through the lens of CCTV surveillance,which is a really important and interesting angle.So it was very interesting to be able to reflect with operators

  • 24:24

    who were the access to the real worldas mediated through cameras.So they're all the time describing what they're seeingand what they're feeling, rather than actually responding.So that's even more important for the workthat I was doing because that was the way my researchquestion was focused.


Dr. Heather Morgan presents a case study on how gender stereotypes affect the thoughts and actions of CCTV operators. She describes her project, why she chose to undertake it, and the challenges of gaining access. She also highlights the importance of maintaining good relationships with studied communities, for the benefit of the community, the researcher, and other researchers who may seek access in the future.

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Researching CCTV Control Rooms: An Ethnographic Approach

Dr. Heather Morgan presents a case study on how gender stereotypes affect the thoughts and actions of CCTV operators. She describes her project, why she chose to undertake it, and the challenges of gaining access. She also highlights the importance of maintaining good relationships with studied communities, for the benefit of the community, the researcher, and other researchers who may seek access in the future.

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