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Post Zuboff's "Age of Surveillance Capitalism"
Created by John Eipper on 02/21/21 3:46 AM

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Zuboff's "Age of Surveillance Capitalism" (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA, 02/21/21 3:46 am)

I recommend to all WAISers a book some might be familiar with but that I am currently reading, namely, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and the challenges to our lives it highlights. In particular, the concept of instrumentarian power vs totalitarian power is worth considering.


John, I want to incorporate that the author, Shoshana Zuboff, was mentored at Harvard by Herbert Kelman, whom I met at the U of M when he was collaborating with the newly created Center for Conflict Resolution. He had just completed his pathbreaking work on International Behavior using social psychology.

JE comments:  Great and timely recommendation, Francisco.  The reviews describe Zuboff's argument that Big Brother has morphed into the Big Other--anonymous and omnipotent digital behemoths who scrutinize and monetize our every move and preference.  As I type this, and as you read it later today, we are probably being watched.

Michel Foucault's 1975 Discipline and Punish was originally titled Surveiller et Punir.  Far more accurate and prophetic.  If he were still with us, Foucault would have a field day with the millions of cameras and billions of archived data points that profile us all.

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  • Zuboff's "Age of Surveillance Capitalism" (Paul Levine, Denmark 02/22/21 2:54 AM)
    Yes, Shoshana Zuboff has written one of the most important books of the last decade.

    You get a sense of her argument from a NYT op-ed from January 29, 2021.

    JE comments:  Here's the link--I had to click around a bit and surrender my personal data to get through the NYT firewall.  Given the thesis of Dr Zuboff's op-ed, there's abundant irony in this:


    Fascinating and unsettling essay.  Our present times are defined by "epistemic inequality"--meaning, what I can know is far less than what can be known about me.  We are well on our way to an institutionalized system of "surveillance capitalism," where private entities and their machines not only know, but decide--and exercise more control than governments and democratic institutions.

    Ultimately, it boils down to the business model of "free" internet services--Google, Facebook, etc. etc.  When you don't pay for a product, it means that you are the product.

    Here's a related observation:  last week in class I asked my students (18 to 22 demographic) how many have Facebook accounts.  Most of them do, and they all agreed on the reason:  to stay in touch with their grandparents.  Zuckerberg--are you listening?

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