Between Technological Utopia and Dystopia: Online Expression of Compulsory Use of Surveillance Technology

Yu Leung Ng*, Zhihuai Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This study investigated people’s ethical concerns of surveillance technology. By adopting the spectrum of technological utopian and dystopian narratives, how people perceive a society constructed through the compulsory use of surveillance technology was explored. This study empirically examined the anonymous online expression of attitudes toward the society-wide, compulsory adoption of a contact tracing app that affected almost every aspect of all people’s everyday lives at a societal level. By applying the structural topic modeling approach to analyze comments on four Hong Kong anonymous discussion forums, topics concerning the technological utopian, dystopian, and pragmatic views on the surveillance app were discovered. The findings showed that people with a technological utopian view on this app believed that the implementation of compulsory app use can facilitate social good and maintain social order. In contrast, individuals who had a technological dystopian view expressed privacy concerns and distrust of this surveillance technology. Techno-pragmatists took a balanced approach and evaluated its implementation practically.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Pages (from-to)19
Number of pages18
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date15 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects

User-Defined Keywords

  • Contact tracing
  • Structural topic modelling
  • Surveillance technology
  • Technological dystopia
  • Technological pragmatism
  • Technological utopia


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