Surveillance and Monitoring

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Edher, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. Edher

    Edher Senior Member

    Cd. de México, Spanish & English
    Saludos a todos,

    Is there a difference between these two words?

    Thank You,
  2. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Yes, but difficult to define. A few examples -

    video surveillance (video monitoring? - not impossible)
    the man was under surveillance (under monitoring - impossible)
    I was monitoring his progress - (surveilling his progress - impossible) - but
    Lord of all he surveys - (lord of all he monitors - impossible)

    So as verbs they are definitely different. I'm finding it hard to give a rule for the nouns though.
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Surveillance implies observation, and is likely to be continuous.
    If feels exceptional.
    It implies that I am expecting to find something exceptional.

    Monitoring may include very remote information and may be very intermittent. I could monitor performance of something on a weekly or monthly basis.
    It feels routine.
    It implies that I will be surprised to find something exceptional.

    This is my own impression and may be complete rubbish.
  4. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    Surveillance always seems to be visual, with eyes or with cameras.
    Monitoring, as well as including other ways of checking progress, seems to imply a minute by minute thing. Monitoring is used in the medical sense, monitoring blood pressure daily, monitoring foetal heartbeat, and just monitoring the situation means checking it regularly.

    You slipped through the surveillance, Panja - well we kind of agree.
  5. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Yes, and that's reflected in the etymology.

    I also can't shake a sense that surveillance is a human activity and monitoring is often left up to mechanical devices. Still, there are human monitors, stationed in the hallways of public schools, vigilant against misbehavior.

    Another difference-- surveillance can be mobile and active, monitoring is more stationary. You monitor things from "listening posts," and you plant mechanical monitoring devices in set locations, say for seismic research. Wave-measuring buoys monitor storm activity, they don't conduct surveillance. Even a video camera, if it's stationary-- is that surveillance, or are they monitoring? I guess their images show up on a monitor, but that fact doesn't clarify anything. Oh wait-- in video surveillance, the camera is the potentially mobile component, the monitor is a display device that stays put. I guess a video cam that was fixed would be monitoring a location, and one that pivoted and made "sweeps" would be engaged in surveillance.

    These difference often apply, then-- not always. The one that seems hard-and-fastest is that surveillance is visual. You can't really do surveillance by earphone.
  6. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    Just considering the nouns and a specific register - that of the WHO for describing its activities and findings in the state of the world's health:

    Surveillance is defined as: Systematic, ongoing collection, collation, and analysis of data and the timely dissemination of information to those who need to know so that action can be taken.

    And, further to that, monitoring seems to be just the first part of surveillance, ie. collection. They refer for example to "... an on-line monitoring tool (that) is being developed by the InfoBase team. (it) ... will track the number of times the site is used ..."
  7. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    When we talk about monitoring at my work, this is generally a pile of figures on something eg how many people turned up at an advice session, how many children they had, what was their gender/ age / ethnic background.

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