On being tagged and tracked: A reflexive exploration

Dr Hannah Graham1
1Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University Of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom

This paper illuminates the experience of being GPS tagged and tracked, taking part in an electronic monitoring (EM) technology trial and unorthodox participatory approach to informing penal policymaking in Scotland. It is a reflexive tale of the teller, mediated by personal and professional biography, drawing upon photographs, poems and narratives from a field diary, complemented by references to extant research literatures. This account of being tagged and tracked is offered from the standpoint of working as a criminologist researching technology and criminal justice – having shadowed electronic monitoring field officers, observed tagging in monitored people’s homes, written evidence reviews, and interviewed a range of criminal justice actors about EM. In this initiative, participants wore a GPS tag visibly in our daily routines and encounters with others and were given individualised ‘exclusion zones’. With different types of electronic monitoring technologies, time and space, land and bodies, movements and consumptions can become enveloped in a kind of ‘customised coercive connectedness’ (Nellis, 2016), ironically enabling more ‘doing at a distance’ (Bauman and Lyon, 2013) by authorities. A surveillance of bounded freedoms – leaving home, walking in public spaces, encountering peers, even drinking alcohol – digitally monitoring things which are, for other citizens, not suspect, not illegal, not a spectacle, not punishable, not necessarily even routinely immediately knowable. In this paper, I (1) analytically critique some of the pains and possibilities of electronic monitoring and mobile and embodied carcerality, and (2) highlight some issues and implications which are currently under-researched and methodologically and theoretically-neglected.


Dr Hannah Graham is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, UK. Hannah is an Editor of the European Journal of Probation (SAGE), together with Professors Ioan Durnescu, Fergus McNeill and Martine Herzog-Evans. She is the author of three books published internationally by Routledge: ‘Rehabilitation Work: Supporting Desistance and Recovery’ (Graham, 2016), ‘Innovative Justice’ (Graham and White, 2015) and ‘Working with Offenders’ (White and Graham, 2010). From 2011-2014, Hannah worked as an academic at the University of Tasmania, Australia.


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