Using “Eyes” from Handmaid’s Tale to teach surveillance


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This exercise is intended to demonstrate how social control functions through surveillance. This exercise was originally used in an Introduction to Sociology class but could be adapted for use in a range of classes (e.g. social problems, deviance, etc.). In this activity, we use the concept of “eyes” from the popular Hulu show Handmaid’s Tale (adapted from the book by Atwood) to illustrate how surveillance works to influence behaviors. In Handmaid’s Tale, the “eyes” are the secret enforcers of the rules/laws of Gilead, a dystopian society. We use an in-class exercise in which the instructors select “eyes” to observe/watch for deviant behavior/violations of classroom policies during class (e.g. texting, sleeping, etc.). In the first class, the “eyes” observe their fellow students. In the second class, we reveal the presence of “eyes” in the classroom, and they continue to make observations. We ask students to consider how their behavior changes when they know “eyes” are present, and then provide evidence to them of how their behavior did change. We also measure the impact that the activity has on their knowledge of concepts of surveillance and deviance through a pre and post-test.


Resource Type(s):
Jennifer Vanderminden
Julia Waity 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Deviant Behavior/Social Disorganization 
Class Level:
Class Size:

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
The first learning goal is for students to experience how external forms of social control influence their behaviors when they are aware of surveillance versus when they are not.
Assessment 1:
The first learning goal will be assessed through measuring the number of acts of deviance students will engage in when they know there are “eyes” in the classroom versus when they don’t know.
Goal 2:
The second learning goal is for students to understand and apply the key concepts of deviance and surveillance.
Assessment 2:
The second learning goal will be assessed through comparing their answers on the pre and post-test including knowledge survey and content knowledge (quiz) questions.
Goal 3:
The third learning goal is for students to apply sociological concepts (deviance and surveillance) to the media they consume.
Assessment 3:
The third learning goal will be assessed through the written reflection assignment where students will be asked for examples of how they apply these concepts.

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