POL507 – EXAM NOTES
Week 7: Capitalism, Technology and the Way we work
1. Capitalism and Technological Innovation
Capitalism usually refers to the private ownership of capitals. It is motivated by profit. The profit-motive is a central shaper of technological
To stay competitive, firms constantly upgrade, modify or enhance the technological force of production.
Technological innovations that are useful to large-scale organizations that have money to spend (corporations) are privileged for
Firms seek out technologies that will enhance the efficiency of their production process.
Efficiency describes producing more commodities, more quickly, with less human input and effort.
Firms seek out technology that has been designed to reduce, deskill or ultimately replace human behaviour.
Technology can perform repetitive and complicated tasks more quickly than humans, eliminate the potential for human error, and reduce
production costs (by reducing the number of waged workers required to complete a task).
3. Industrial Revolution: Britain and the U.S.
Britain: 1750 and 1830
U.S.A: 1880 and 1940
The production of commodities for sale on the market was made more efficient by combining energy, human labour, raw materials and
4. From Artisan to Waged Working Class
Feudalsim: Feudalism was a set of political and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the ninth and fifteenth
Artisans: skilled manual workers who craft items by hand were the dominant producers of goods.
Artisans possessed unique skills, passed down through generations of guilds. They designed and produced each individual product from
start to finish. They sold goods to merchants.
The transition from the artisanal to industrial capitalist mode of production fundamentally changed the nature and experience of work.
Artisans soon became part of a waged working class.
How did work change?
i. Artisans no longer owned their means of production (factory owners control fixed capital).
ii. Artisans were deskilled (no longer needed to know how to make something from start to finish).
iii. Artisans no longer controlled their own work routine (factory managers dictated the work process).
iv. Artisans lost their economic independence (they now depended upon a wage for their subsistence).
5. Labour-Saving Technology
Capitalism in about profit accumulation.
What does the business owner do with the profits accumulation? Keep it? Pay higher wages to workers? Lower commodity prices for
consumers? Or, invest in new labour-saving technology?
Labour-saving technology: technology that is designed or adapted to diminish, supersede or replace the labour of people.
Work becomes less physically painful/strenuous.
Harry Braverman (1974) Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century.
The skills of workers are transferred to machines.
Labour-saving technology removes the subjective human skill needed to produce certain things, by making workers’ routines dependent on
machines and routinized machine-like functions.
Deskilled workers: 1) take a lower wage than skilled workers; 2) are more easily controlled than skilled workers.
7. Automation A source of uncertainty in the industrial factory system are people.
Automation is the process of having a machine or machines accomplish tasks hitherto performed wholly or partly by humans.
By replacing humans with machines, management can exert total control over the production process, reducing uncertainty.
Automation helps firms reduce the cost of production by eliminating the need to pay wages for labour related to the task.
8. Class conflict and Techno-Capitalism: Luddism and Unions
Power, Class and Technology:
• Is labour-saving technology a value-neutral tool?
• Are the interests of workers and owners equally reflected by labour-saving technology?
• Workers often challenged labour-saving technology.
• The industrial revolution was a long and painful process full of class conflict over the future of work.
Worker Resistance to Techno-Capitalism: Luddism
In 1811, steam looms were applied to the textile production process. By applying steam looms to textile production, industry leaders were
able to use less skilled and lower paid workers. Young children and women were hired to work the steam looms; adult men were
subsequently deskilled and fired.
In the early 1800s, a group of English textile workers led by Ned Ludd challenged the steam looms. They resisted the transformation of their
work (deskilling) by capital’s new machines by breaking machines. In this respect, “Luddism was a strain of worker opposition, not to
technology per se, but to their domination by industrial technology” (Lindholt 1997: 4)
Worker Resistance to Techno-Capitalism: Unionization
The technological innovations of industrial capitalism served the class interests of factory owners.
They were resisted by workers, who felt threatened by rapid change.
Unions were formed to represent the interests of workers.
Strikes were used as tools of protest and a means of making demands upon business owners.
Workers struck over technology, de-skilling, the loss of decision-making, the fundamental transformation of their work. Eventually, they
struck over low wages and poor work conditions.
5 Minute Break
The Lawrence Textile Strike was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912, led by the Industrial Workers of the
Deskilling and automation reduced the number of workers employed in the American Woolen company. Wages were being reduced.
“Work in a textile mill took place at a grueling pace and the labor was repetitive and dangerous. In addition, a number of children under the
age of fourteen worked in the mills. *…+ thirty-six out of every 100 men and women who worked in the mill died by the time they reached
The Mayor of Lawrence used militia to try to suppress and break the strike. (wiki)
9. “The Man Problem” and Scientific Management (Fredrick W. Taylor)
The Man Problem
• The “man problem”: worker stubbornness, sabotage, class struggles.
• Prior to the 20 century, engineers solved mechanical problems and invented technology for industry;
• Engineers eventually treated workers as a problem to be solved. Engineers soon went about solving human relations problems within
industry, namely, how to manage an efficient and pliable workforce (Noble 1977: 262).
• In the early 20 century, with the rise of Fordism, the discipline of modern management emerged to deal with the man problem.
Scientific Management (Fredrick W. Taylor)
• Taylorism: there is “one best way” to do a job.
• Taylor broke down any given task into discrete actions, and then taught workers the most efficient sequences and the correct pace for each
• Taylor organized individual tasks into a rational sequence, so that work flowed in a standardized and predictable way.
• Fordism - Taylorism
Human and Cultural Management
A simple wage-incentive as not enough to motivate workers. Effective scientific management needed to be grounded upon the consent of
the worker to the work they were doing. the worker had to be made to feel that he was participating in all management decisions that affected him.
Cultural management: the strategies employed to control the human element of production at the individual and group level through the
study and manipulation of human behaviour” (Noble 1977: 264)
Studies of the causes of worker motivation; seek to learn the one best way of motivating workers emotionally subjectively.
10. Capitalism and the Mechanical Clock
The Mechanical Clock
The mechanical clock is an important technology that was employed in the context of industrial transformation to increase the productivity
Pre-mechanical time: natural time.
From Time of Worship to Capital Clocks
The clock was invented by men who wanted to devote themselves to God (Benedictine monks); it ended as the technology of men who
devoted themselves to the accumulation of money (the bourgeoisie).
Time was standardized; we now take for granted as ‘natural’ the division of the passage of time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months,
years, decades, centuries, and eras, as if everything has its place upon a single time scale.
Capitalism required the clock; it made it important for us (and business owners and managers) to keep track of hours worked.
Time = Money
‘Time is money!”
Command over time is a crucial element in the search for profit
Firms seek to speed up the ‘turnover time’ of a commodity, to reduce the amount of time it takes to produce, promote and then sell a good
on the market
Firms that “can best intensify or “speed up” production, marketing, etc., are in the best position to survive” (Harvey 1989: 230)
Why? The faster the good is produced, the more quickly a firm is able to sell it.
Firms develop ways to manage and ‘to speed up’ the work of workers.
Labour-time was subordinated to capital clocks: time sheets, punch-clocks, timekeepers, etc.
Class struggles over time.
11. Unpaid Housework and Domestic Technology
Gender, Housework and Domestic Technology
Modern women are expected to do housework without the aid of paid servants/services.
Household appliances reduce the amount of work children and husbands do and make jobs easier. But they are still no less time consuming
because women, due to gender-sex ideology, are expected to do the housework.
Instead of redefining a woman's function in society to outside of the home, most domestic technology (and advertising for it) has kept
women at home.
Our household technological systems were built with the assumption that somebody (the housewife) would be around to operate them
“Numerous studies have shown that during the twentieth century the hours of domestic labour did not diminish despite the adoption of
electric vacuum cleaners, stoves, clothes washes and dish-washers. A man can run a vacuum cleaner or a dishwasher as well as a women.
But as such appliances entered the home, men and children tended to withdraw from domestic work, leaving mothers to do most of it
alone, even as standards rose for child care, cuisine, and cleanliness. The persistent inequality cannot be blamed on household appliances,
but strongly suggests that technologies are socially shaped to perpetuate pre-existing cultural values and male privilege.” (Nye 2006: 128).
Gender, Housework and Domestic Technology
Technologies do not in and of themselves cause gender inequality. Rather, they can be socially constructed to restrict or improve women’s
access to some jobs. * . . . + “Cultural predispositions still define many jobs in terms of gender. Women have been subalterns—assistants to
the males who control hospitals (nurses), corporations (secretaries), and dental practices (hygienists). Likewise, women have the most low
paying jobs, including child care, cleaning and working in restaurants. Employment segregation reflects cultural values. Indeed, to the
extent that machines now do the heavy lifting, divisions of work based on size, height and strength (qualities that often functioned as code
words for gender) no longer apply. A woman can drive a forklift or manage an electric crane as well as a man” (Nye 2006: 127).
What is the industrial revolution? How did it change the way people work?
What is Scientific Management? Is the discipline of management a technology?
In what ways is technology a means of influencing the way people work?
In the context of work, is technology a neutral tool? Or, is it designed with a “bias” that reflects the power of management and owners?
Have technological innovations made work better (easier, more efficient, less physically laborious, more rewarding) or worse (harder, more
exhaustive, more laborious, less rewarding) for the great majority of working people?
Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the impact of technology in the workplace? Why are technological innovations in the workplace often resisted by workers?
Week 7: Capitalism, Information and Communication Technology, and the Way we Work
1. The Neo-Fordist Service Economy
Fordist to neo-Fordist production (heavy and standard goods to intangible and customized goods)
Rise of service industries: transport, retailing, recreation, health, media and communications, research.
In 2008, there were 1, 790,000 retail jobs on average last year compared to 1,784,700 in manufacturing.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide the infrastructure of the neo-Fordist service economy
commodification of images, ideas, and culture
2. The Neo-Fordist Corporation
national to trans-national corporations – the global market
in-house local to outsourced global production (contracting out of tasks to countries where labour laws are more lax and wages are lower:
IBM “Java around the clock”; Dell “just-in-time” customization).
Management centralization to de-centralization; management gurus promoted a “a work culture that embraced openness, cooperation
and self-management” (Ross 2004: 9).
Work is not just something you perform in exchange for a fair wage or life-long job security; it is now a “personal investment.”
3. The Flex Worker
“No class in history has ever risen faster than the blue collar workers. And no class in history has ever fallen faster” (Drucker 1994: 56)
Flex worker as knowledge worker/symbolic analyst/creative class/immaterial labour; contract worker. Here are some characteristics:
• adaptable and agile (the U.S. Department of Labour estimates today's students will have 10 to 14 different jobs by age 38)
• constant education and re-education
• individualistic and entrepreneurial
• self-motivated and self-reliant
• self-managing (do-it-yourself ethos)
Empowering or disempowering?
Tele-workers describe those workers who work at a distance from and for their employers, generally at home or from a remote site.
ICTs enable people to work from anywhere, anytime.
10% of Canada’s workforce is engaged in tele-work
42% of IBM’s workforce is “mobile.”
Disappearing line between sphere of production and consumption, labour and leisure, the factory and civil society.
ICTs “tether us” to our work 24/7
At Best Buy's headquarters, more than 60% of the 4,000 employees can work from wherever they want, using ICTs.
Margaret Hooshmand and the tele-presence system at Cisco
5. Virtual Work (and Shopping)
1-800 Flowers sells virtual flowers to avatar consumers.
Buying virtual Nike shoes and branded clothing.
tele-salespeople in a virtual marketplace
“The drive for increased productivity among service workers has led to an ever-increasing amount of ‘consumption work’ being foisted onto
the consumer; that the time lost is not the waged worker’s but the unpaid time of the consumer” (Huws 2004: 27).
The automated teller machine (ATM); automated check-outs at grocery stores; self-serve gas stations; online shopping at Amazon.com
involves so-it-yourself order forms; ticket sales kiosk at cinemas.
Prosumption The role of producers and consumers is beginning to blur and merge.
Anyone reading a blog (i.e. consuming it) can start a blog nearly instantly (produce a new blog). Almost anyone watching a Youtube clip, can
create and post Youtube clip.
Prosumers do creative work that was previously paid for by firms.
Fans as co-producers (Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings)
Fans as free advertising (hardcore brand loyal fans as tastemakers)
Personal video clips as “free content” for Youtube Inc.
7. The End of Work? Structural unemployment and labour-saving technology.
Structural Unemployment: Automating Everything?
When agricultural production was mechanized, the farm workers went into factories.
When factories introduced assembly lines and labour-saving machines, blue-collar workers and their children moved into office work and
Today, all three of the traditional sectors of the economy—agriculture, manufacturing, and service—are employing labour saving
technologies, forcing millions onto the unemployment rolls (Nye 2006 118-19).
The Crisis Hypothesis
Labour-saving technology makes the production of commodities more efficient and increases the supply of goods but paradoxically reduces
the number of consumers available to buy them, reducing demand for commodities in the market.
Total automation would lead to an imbalance between supply of commodities and effective demand for them.
The endpoint of this contradictory process is a capitalist crisis and collapse.
A crisis of over-production seems unavoidable. As wages fall or are completely eliminated, as consumers are eliminated and effective
demand is drastically reduced, warehouses will remain full of surplus commodities. Production will slow. Profits will fall. Capitalism will
8. What’s to be done? i) wait for new sectors to emerge; ii) retraining; iii) imagine an alternative.
What’s to be done?
The compensation thesis. When new technologies replaced workers in a given sector, new sectors always emerged. Job losses due to
labour-saving machines are only a temporary displacement. New economic sectors emerge, producing new jobs, which eventually
compensate those lost to machines. Problem: the number of workers required to make the new machines might be fewer than the number
of workers displaced by labour-saving technology each year.
Retraining programs. Equip workers with the skills they need to compete in the neo-Fordist economy. Problem: global capitalism and
outsourcing of “white-collar” work and importing workers with visas.
Imagine an alternative.
Speeding up: more work, no time
Firms seek to speed up the ‘turnover time’ of a commodity, to reduce the amount of time it takes to produce, promote and then sell a good
on the market. Firms that “can best intensify or speed up production are in the best position to survive” (Harvey 1989: 230)
In 1972, a General Motor’s Lordstown assembly plant in Ohio produced cars at a speed of 101.6 cars per hour—one vehicle produced every
Currently, AT&T telephone operators are expected to deal with one customer service call every 26 seconds as a condition of contract.
Work as life (“workaholic”)
“Karoshi” (working yourself to death).
Speeding up: more work, less pay
After decreasing from more than 60 hours a week in 1870 to about 40 in 1970, work-time has begun to increase.
People are working longer hours, more efficiently, but for less money.
Americans now work an average of 1,979 hours a year, about three-and-a-half weeks more than the Japanese, six-and-a-half weeks more
than the British and about twelve-and-a-half weeks more than their German counterparts.
Americans work a month longer each year than they did 20 years ago.
MSNBC reports “the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they
provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labour costs” — the amount employers paid for
all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent.”
9. Working more and faster for less pay. Why do we do it? i) Capitalism triumphant; ii) consumerism triumphant.
1. Capitalism Triumphant: Neoliberalism and Social Class Power
“The big winners of *the neo-Fordist economy+ are members of a very narrow elite: the top 1 percent or less of the population” (Krugman
2009: 136). Between 1970 and 1995, the richest 20 percent of Americans increased their slice of the economic pie from 40.9 to 46.9 percent, while the
remaining 80 percent shared the loss
CEOs have seen their income rise from about 30 times the average worker in 1970 to more than 300 times now.
Among all the Fortune 1000 companies, nearly 400 CEOs got bonuses in 2009, taking home $402 million in annual bonus pay. The real
wages of North American workers have declined by more than 13% since peaking in 1973.
2. Consumerism Trimphant: ‘Shop till you Drop’
Culture-ideology of consumerism: mass consumerism as a way of life.
Rather than working less to earn more, many people actually choose to earn more by working harder.
We are willing to overwork ourselves to gain the means to accumulate more possessions. We may be the hardest working generation in
history, but we also have the most stuff. The allure of commodities is irresistible; “I shop therefore I am” has replaced the Enlightenment
dictum “I think therefore I am.”
10. Surveillance at Work
Call Centre Surveillance
Bain and Taylor (2000) focus on surveillance technology in call-centers (hubs of informational capitalism).
Two perspectives on surveillance technology in the call center.
The first (optimistic) perspective presented “exciting images of centers, staffed by cooperative team-working employees ‘smiling down the
phone’ and talking to customers in a relaxed and professional manner in comfortable regional accents”(3).
The second (pessimistic) perspective: direct managerial control of workers decreased because technologies of surveillance to monitor
Workers internalize managerial discipline; they become self-managers; they work harder without anyone telling them they have to because
of the visible presence of a security camera or monitoring techniques over their work.
How are workers monitored?
Every call is subject to a series of exceptionally detailed measurements, which, when statistically collated, are compared with conformance
criteria laid down in the telephone company contract”(2000: 9).
The time of the call is rationalized and monitored; the target is 30 seconds per call; the weekly average was 32.52 seconds.
The disjunct between worker call/time targets and actual performance leads to supervisory attempts to speed up or intensify work when
under-performance is identified.
Telecorp also monitors its workers call performance with secrete callers that measure workers’ ability to conform to pre-determined scripts
and also, to measure the quality of their customer service interaction.
For example, on Monday August 17, 1998, management assessed precisely 4.9 percent of calls as having deviated from script and in
another instance, management review customer service criteria including ‘agent tone’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘affect’, etc.
This is psychological quality-management and control using surveillance.
“Remote observations’ – management recording calls (or listening to them) from a remote site without the worker’s knowledge.
An agent comments: ‘You are not supposed to be able to actually tell when you are being monitored. The monitoring can happen from
anywhere on the switch or it can happen from outside the centre. It can even happen from the other centre but only if they want
verification. We have seen instances where a manager or supervisor based here, along with somebody from our other centre, monitors
agents to get evidence of bad practices” (Bain and Taylor 11).
While Telecorp electronic surveillance is organized for control purposes, surveillance practices don’t always result in total control. Why not?
1) Bigger problems facing management - high labour turnover, sickness absence rates, motivation, etc., are bigger problems for
management; management recognizes that surveillance has not overcome these man problems. Also, extensive monitoring is a drain on
the labour time of management; a total big brother like scenario is expensive.
2) Imperfect control– Workers often know they are being monitored so perform accordingly
3) Collective resistance and trade unionism – many workers join unions to contest power of management; demand a more equitable
redistribution of the company’s profits, demand better working conditions, benefits, etc.
Both of these popular perspectives are exaggerated because they: 1) don’t understand work in the call center and also; 2) underestimate
the potential for worker resistance.
• A case study of work within a UK telecommunications call centre, Telcorp. They conclude that though mechanisms of electronic surveillance
are extensively employed, rather than leading to the nullification of resistance and the creation of obedient passive workers, the situation is
much different. “What management would like to achieve *using surveillance technologies in the workplace+ is often very different from
what they are able to achieve”(5).
Dialectics of Techno-Capitalism
Capitalism is a force of creative destruction; capitalism creates and destroys; it is a progressive force of change and a harbinger of disaster.
“*T+he twofold significance of the development of the productive forces: they both reinforce the existing social order and undermine it.
Social relations and forces of production are thus at the same time in correspondence and contradiction” (Noble 1977: xix). In capitalism, the pace of social change appears to be quickened as industries competitively struggle to produce more potent and profitable
means of production (new technologies); yet, the unequal social relations of production (the division of society into owners of the means of
production and workers) remains a constant.
Ultimately, technology is not the singular determination of social change; it is the social power relations that technology both limits and
enables and the struggles over such technology, that makes change.
Week 8: The National Security State, Power and Surveillance
The State and Power
The liberal democratic market state
National order and security
Forms of state power
all forms of observation, data collection, and monitoring for specific reasons.
covert (without our knowledge)
overt (with our knowledge)
Since their formation, liberal states have been surveillance states.
Benign surveillance as a necessity of governance.
Surveillance is absolutely crucial to recognizing, meeting and managing citizen demands.
To be recognized as a citizen, the state must have information about you: birth certificate, social insurance number, passport).
State Power and Surveillance
surveillance is the process of monitoring the behavior of people to provoke conformity to the expected order for security or control.
‘panoptic principle’ - citizens actively govern and self-regulate themselves, without the state needing to use hard power.
Jeremy Bentham - the Panopticon prison complex
"sentiment of an invisible omniscience."
Uncertainty – possibility of being watched - even in the absence of a guard, inmates self-monitor, self-police, and self-regulate. They police
Michel Foucault - Panopticism as ideal model of liberal governance and soft power.
The National Security State and Surveillance, post-9/11
Minority Report as allegory of post-9/11 surveillance
Collective surveillance as collective security “ideology”
The Bush Administration - US Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism Act)
Department of Defense - Total Information Awareness
Video Surveillance – Closed Circuit Television
Closed circuit television
Video cameras record social activities, but do not broadcast them to a mass audience
Factors driving this surveillance revolution:
1) cheaper, smaller cameras
2) centralized organization
Electronic Communications Surveillance
Warrantless wiretapping - the covert monitoring of the telephone conversations of citizens, without their consent
The FBI can force U.S. corporations that collect data about consumers to turn over their records to the NSA
Email monitoring – FBI – “Carnivore” – “routing”
A new ideology connects collective security to collective surveillance.
A cause-effect argument: the expansion of state surveillance technologies leads to more collective security. According to this ideology, to
be secure, we must be under surveillance at all times. To be under surveillance, is to be secured. To secure America, the state must expand
surveillance powers. By expanding its surveillance powers, the state ostensibly secures Americans. Naomi Wolfe: “The Watch List”
Liberty for Security: a trade off?
Does surveillance stop terrorism?
State as Technological Instrumentalist/Fix
Fears/Consequence of State Surveillance
The citizen as “suspect”
Chilling Effect/Weak Democracy
State control and secrecy
Week 9: The Digital Surveillance Market
Surveillance “watching over”
Surveillance is the process of monitoring the behavior of people, objects, or processes within systems to provoke conformity in systems for
security or control.
Surveillance may be covert (without our knowledge) or overt (with our knowledge, with frequent reminders such as "we are watching over
Hard and Soft Surveillance
Hard surveillance - coercion and threats to gain involuntary compliance. We are forced to be under surveillance; we have little “free choice”
in the matter.
Soft surveillance - instances when we freely volunteer to give our private information to government authorities or private corporations.
When subtle forms of persuasion are used to gain our voluntary compliance to submitting personal information.
Data Accumulation and Data Surveillance
Where does all of your information go?
All of our online moves and transactions in the networked information economy leave an information trail, a trail of data about us that is
accumulated by others.
economic transactions (credit cards, air miles) – online social networking experiences (Facebook, blogs)
Data surveillance is the collection of information about an individual, often from multiple sources, that can be assembled into a portrait or
image of that person’s activities.
Search Engines as Data Surveillance: AOL’S user profiles
AOL recently published the search histories of more than 650,000 of its registered users.
From search histories, profiles of consumers and their personal experiences could be deduced and recorded.
Searches performed by one AOL user living near Charlton, Mass., appear to show how one man went through the process of divorce,
finding an apartment, and fighting for custody of his children. This is what AOL user 4331025 typed in over a three-month period: charlton
ma apartments / gourmet condiments / cheer up plaques / mass custody definitions / kids health / wastewater jobs mass / visitation
schedule / kids gym places in worcester / mass wastewater certification exam forums / counter surveilance products / sample visitation
schedules /how are fat girlfriends / salem probate court decisions / revenge for a cheating spouse / civil war a fathers guide to winning
custody / mass licensed daycare providers / fish chowder recipes / win your child custody war books for sale / martindale hubbell / first
date dos and donts / how to satisfy a woman / penis enlargement / how to get revenge on exwife / how to do a background check
Capitalism: Motor of Data Surveillance
Corporations realized that our personal information was valuable to marketing firms.
Corporations devised new ways of accumulating, commoditizing, selling our personal information to a variety of clients, from marketing
corporations to governments.
We our the new commodities of the information economy. The market for our digital data selves is growing rapidly. Our personal data
profiles are now “information commodities”, produced and consumed, stored and distributed, downloaded and retrieved, bought and sold,
exchanged for millions of dollars between corporations.
What is data surveillance for? Marketing Research
The data profile about a consumer’s tastes, preferences and practices is, along with thousands of others, sold by data collectors to
marketing research firms. This data helps firms manage their marketing strategies on behalf of their clients and customize advertisements
to specific user
Automated advertising systems – Yahoo! Myspace, Amazon.com Interactive cybernetic feedback loop between firm and customer
What is data surveillance for? Market Efficiency
Firms use data-profiles to make exchange relations between producers and consumers of goods more efficient.
The use of data profiles for marketing purposes, enhances the logics of the interactive media ‘marketplace’; if companies are able to deliver
products and services efficiently to consumers, tailor products to customer preferences, and inform consumers about products using
customized ads on websites, then there must be high levels of data surveillance to ensure that demand is met (and cultivated in advance).
Data Surveillance as Soft Surveillance
Media corporations are not forcing us to click ‘yes, I’ve read and consent to the user agreements or disclosure policy.’
We consent to data surveillance (as opposed to being forced)
We willingly surrender our personal and private information to corporations.
Why? Because we get something in exchange: better service or perks. Three examples: 1) TiVo; 2) customer loyalty programs (Shopper’s
Optimum); 3) Facebook
The Virtual Revolution: The Cost of Free
The Consequences of Data Surveillance
As information about media consumption habits make up a large share of the stock of data that institutions can use in order to make
inferences about the customized preferences of individuals, there are certain consequences or potential risks involved.
What are the consequences/effects of data surveillance?
1) Privacy - privacy was once understood as an individuals’ right to control the use of their name and likeness; privacy is dead in databases.
2) Meaningless choice - To be meaningful, choice should involve educated or informed chooser (hard, given time constraints), genuine
alternatives (not available) and minimal refusal costs (possible?)
3) Informational inequality and unequal gains. consumers/citizens don’t own the means of data surveillance. Corporations and states do.
They can exploit data surveillance and profit/enhance their power as result.
4) Social profiling/exclusion - corporations collect and segment consumer profiles into differentiated consuming types (or niches). Only
those with disposable income and good credit are targeted by ads, being offered customer perks and loyalty discounts. Everyone else,
especially the poor, is excluded. Alternately, the poor are exploited.
5) Losing control of our data self/misinterpreting our data self
— Data surveillance “strips individuals of any control over the process of data collection, profiling, interpretation, and segmenting that they
are subject to. The individual is left to bear the consequences of a process that they do not control (Baruh 2007: 192).
— ‘Individuals have little control over their own personal data (Gandy 1993), how it used or how it is interpreted.
— The information data surveillance extracts from its targets is used as the raw material for decision making about them; the data self is a
means of judging the true character of the person.
— There is the potential for authorities to misinterpret and misuse people’s personal data profiles, resulting in real life harm to real people.
What’s to be Done?
Data about me in the hands of other entities—whether corporations or states—sometimes permits them to gain at my expense.
Enable people to understand how, when and why their private information is being gathered, by whom and for what purpose it is being
Also, grant people the intellectual property rights to control ‘their own data management.”
If I know how my data profile is being used, if I have control over the data about myself, I can release it when, and only when, doing so is in
Big Brother is watching you and we are watching Big Brother
Provide an example of data surveillance as soft surveillance. What is the exchange relationship? (what does the firm get? What do you get
in exchange for personal information).
Week 9: Technologies of Surveillance: Surveillance Markets and Data Profiles
Last Week Review
Hard and soft surveillance
Covert and overt surveillance
Post-9/11 national security surveillance state.
“Big Brother” and “Little Brothers”
Big Brother - hard and covert surveillance by states (involuntary)
Little Brothers - soft and overt surveillance by firms (voluntary). Big Brother: national security
Little Brothers: profit-maximization
The biggest Little Brother
500 million users
600 billion minutes on site per month
U.S.-based, but globalizing to English speaking countries (Canada, Australia, Britain)
How do we use Facebook? How does Facebook use us?
The historical context of Facebook: key concepts.
Technological instrumentalist and optimist views of Facebook.
Facebook as a participatory panopticon
Facebook and national security
Facebook’s revenge effects (unintended consequences)
Legal and technological fixes to Facebook problems.
Industrial capitalism – tangible goods (i.e. cars)
De-industrialization – 1970s to the present
Informational capitalism – intangible goods (i.e. recreation, leisure, culture, media, communications, images, experiences, information)
A lot of data about us is created through our electronic actions and interactions with:
ATMs, credit cards, air miles, Google searches, ad clicks on websites, blog posts, email.
Data surveillance firms collect, store, process, sort and trade people’s personal data.
Data self: data profile of an individual (a partial and selective approximation of a person’s identity, derived from data trails).
Data firms sell data profiles to advertising firms.
Mass advertising (one message to all consumers)
Customized advertising (many messages to many different lifestyle consumers)
Yahoo: customized ads
MySpace: lifestyle interest target marketing
Google: context-related advertising
Amazon.com: automated recommendation lists (books, etc.)
Two surveillance logics:
The disciplinary panopticon (discipline, punish, deter, threaten, coercion)
The participatory panopticon (recognize, reward, invite, persuade, consent)
Power relationship: exchange (incentives and inducements); personal information is exchanged for recognition, rewards, or services.
Web 1.0 (1993 - 2001): one to many communication (Internet users are passive) Web 2.0 (2001 - present): many to many communication (Internet users are interactive)
Convergence: media content production/media content consumption.
Media content is produced by the same people that consume media content (users produce content)
Video game magazine reviews
ICTs blur the sphere of labour (production) and leisure (consumption) together.
ICTs (mobile devices – the Blackberry) extend the space and time of work into hitherto unproductive sites.
Consumption work (work once paid to an employee is shifted to the consumer using tech. interface)
Crowdsourcing (creative media work is sourced to prosumers)
People make public, private lives
Young people disregard privacy as a political value
Pleasure derived from knowing and watching
Facebook as a tool that users have power over
Upload face images
Share personal info.
The Facebook Economy
Facebook’s structure (design, functions, user agreement) was shaped by the company to benefit the company economically.
Sharing user’s personal information
Facebook users are prosumers
Consensual and overt surveillance relationship
Terms and conditions
Power to the Facebook People?
Peter Theil (Paypal owner and neoconservative activist) ($500,000)
The Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel ($12.7 million)
NSA agents under (profile) cover
Pre-emptive policing by colleges and local police departments.
The end of forgetting
Facebook enables personal expression, but personal information is used against people at a later date by powerful organizations.
Flexible identity to fixed Facebook identity
Lose control of our identities in Web 2.0 environment What’s to be done?
Legal fixes: constitutional right to oblivion; reptuation bankruptcy
Technological fixes: Reputation Defender, software that expires data profiles or makes them self-destruct over a period of time.
How to protect private information?
Privacy as a modern concept.
Week 10: Video Games at War: The Military-Industrial-Media Entertainment-Network (MIME-NET)
Social Shaping of Video Games
War and games
History of MIME-NET: policies, organizations and practices
MIME-NET as “Corporatism”
U.S. military uses of war games: 1) Training; 2) Recruitment (America’s Army); 3) Propaganda; 4) Therapy
Real War and Virtual War
“Modalities of Realism” in War Games
Debating the real world consequences of war games
Social Shaping Video Games: Capitalism
The U.S. home to nine of the world’s top twenty game publishers: Electronic Arts, Activision, THQ, Take-Two Interactive, Microsoft Game
Studios, Buena Vista Games, Atlus Games, LucasArts and Midway Games.
• 75% of North American households play games. 228 million games were sold in 2005; 267.8 million in 2007.
• The U.S. industry supports more than 144,000 full-time jobs.
• In 2007, Halo 3 took in more revenue in its first day of sales than the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie (Spider-Man 3) and the
final Harry Potter book’s first day sales. In 2009, 5 million copies of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 were sold on its release day ($324.4
Social Shaping Video Games: War
“Playing war” - Chess, Go, and Battleship.
Following 9/11, the market for war-themed video games grew
Fugitive Hunger: War on Terror (Encore, Black Ops Entertainment, and CDV Software).
In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Three of the top twenty console titles in the U.S. market were military-themed: Conflict: Desert Storm II (Gotham Games), Call of Duty
(Activision), and SOCOM II (SCEI).
Video Games and the Military
In the context of a renewed U.S. empire and the global war on terrorism, it is important to think critically about the social shaping of war-
themed video games by corporate and military actors, the uses of war-themed games by corporate and military entities, the messages
about war communicated by such games, and their political uses and impacts.
The symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships between three organizations: the U.S. military, the U.S. arms industry and global media
and technology corporations.
The military is an important financial contributor to and shaper of research, development and innovation in the field of war simulation
machines and games.
Military-industrial-entertainment complex ‘synergies’ are strategic partnerships formed between a media corporation and the US military
to the ends of achieving a mutually beneficial goal.
James Der Derian (2001). Virtuous War: Mapping the Mil