Seeing red : discourse, metaphor, and the implementation of red light cameras in Texas



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This study examines the deployment of automated red light camera systems in the state of Texas from 2003 through late 2007. The deployment of new technologies in general, and surveillance infrastructures in particular, can prove controversial and challenging for the formation of public policy. Red light camera surveillance during this period in Texas was increasingly discussed in a variety of public forums, creating a discourse involving many stakeholders and multiple opinions on the use and purpose of red light cameras. Public policy resulted when the Texas legislature, which had traditionally been viewed as hostile to the technology, regulated red light camera systems in 2007. My research examined the language choices made by various discourse communities in their discussion of red light camera systems, and their use of language structures in framing positions that either supported or opposed the cameras. Using Critical Discourse Analysis, I analyzed a corpus of texts that represented the public discussion of red light camera technology in Texas. By examining metaphor constructions used to describe the camera systems, I found that metaphors played an important role in framing arguments for or against the deployment of the cameras. My findings provide insight into the ways that language can be used to engage in a discursive and rhetorical conflict. This study has implications for understanding how technology and surveillance policy can be affected by language choices and rhetorical strategies, and how these choices can frame and influence public policy decisions.