Blurring genres and violating guild norms: A review of reviews of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

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... That same narrowed aperture led Zuboff, in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, to over-emphasize the novelty of the behavioral futures business she attributes to Google. The insurance (Bouk 2015) and credit-rating (Lauer 2017) industries, to mention two, have hitched data to predictive profit for well over a hundred years (Breckenridge 2020, 933;Jansen andPooley 2021, 2845). As we have seen, Garfield's ISI was in the data business before Larry Page and Sergey Brin were born. ...
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This essay develops the idea of surveillance publishing, with special attention to the example of Elsevier. A scholarly publisher can be defined as a surveillance publisher if it derives a substantial proportion of its revenue from prediction products, fueled by data extracted from researcher behavior. The essay begins by tracing the Google search engine’s roots in bibliometrics, alongside a history of the citation analysis company that became, in 2016, Clarivate. The essay develops the idea of surveillance publishing by engaging with the work of Shoshana Zuboff, Jathan Sadowski, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, and Aziz Huq. The recent history of Elsevier is traced to describe the company’s research-lifecycle data-harvesting strategy, with the aim to develop and sell prediction products to unviersity and other customers. The essay concludes by considering some of the potential costs of surveillance publishing, as other big commercial publishers increasingly enter the predictive-analytics business. It is likely, I argue, that windfall subscription-and-APC profits in Elsevier’s “legacy” publishing business have financed its decade-long acquisition binge in analytics. The products’ purpose, moreover, is to streamline the top-down assessment and evaluation practices that have taken hold in recent decades. A final concern is that scholars will internalize an analytics mindset, one already encouraged by citation counts and impact factors.
Zuboff’a göre gözetim kapitalistlerine boyun eğmemek için gerçekleştirilecek olan direniş ilk bakışta oldukça basit: Eğer bu teknolojileri kullanmazsak ve verilerimizi teslim etmezsek sömürülmüyoruz. Ancak günümüz dijital çağında bu yöntem pek mümkün görünmüyor. Ayrıca Zuboff'un önerdiği gibi canavarı evcilleştirmek de çözüm değil. Ona göre canavarı yenmeli, evlerimizi, mahrem yerlerimizi geri almalı ve hayatlarımızı onun pençelerinden almalıyız. Ancak tüm bunları gerçekleştirmek için daha demokratik bir dijital ortam mı yaratılmalı yoksa direniş için işe önce kendimizden başlayarak okyanusta bir damla değil de dev bir dalga olmak için örgütlenmeli mi soruları giderek daha da tartışmalı hale geliyor.
In this provocative, consequential book, Couldry and Mejias theorize the dynamics of change in contemporary capitalism as grounded in a new form of data colonialism. They conceptualize the distinctive nature of data colonialism as appropriating myriad aspects of human life as the raw material for capitalism. Data colonialism thus extends the process of commodification into new spheres of social life. This includes all areas of social activity where data are appropriated for profit; they range from work to education, health care, economic transactions, and social media. As we engage in these diverse activities, corporations treat these various kinds of data as “‘just there’, freely available for extraction and the release of its potential for humankind” (Couldry and Mejias 2019, 9). Such corporate appropriation of contemporary data is similar to historical claims to land as belonging to no one under earlier forms of colonialism. In developing this argument, the authors draw persuasively on a 2011 World Economic Forum report that refers to personal data as a resource as valuable as oil, because of its ability to fuel economic processes. They delineate intriguing parallels between historical processes of colonial expansion by taking over land and other natural resources and contemporary processes of mining personal data as inputs for capitalism.
We review Zuboff’s book, a vast work of contemporary history, social psychology and political economy. Zuboff argues that a contingent configuration of digital technologies, fuelled by teleological utopianism, has created a rogue capitalism wherein reciprocal relationships (apparently ‘organic’ to capitalism as such), both within the firm and in society, have been subverted. Subversion is achieved by unilaterally grabbing user data which are algorithmically processed into ‘behaviour’. With surveillance technologies gradually embedded in everyday objects, data-grabbing enables a seemingly-self-enhancing tailoring of products even as surveillance imperceptibly morphs into control. But these arguments raise a number of questions. Can data map culture? How has digitization transposed control from production to consumption? How does digital abstraction relate to abstraction through commensuration? How is social ontology transformed by the digitization of the physical medium of life?
Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books, 2019, 692 pp., ₹799, ISBN 978-1-7881-6316-3.
Economies of surveillance
  • M F Cuéllar
The tech giants are out to get you
  • S Batkins
Capitalism has always been “rogue.”
  • B Christophers
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • R Evangelista
None of your business
  • K Fitzpatrick
All that is solid melts into code
  • Kapadia
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • K Ball
Thieves of experience: how Google and Facebook corrupted capitalism
  • N Carr
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • I Maly
Schumpeter: is Google an evil genius?
  • Anonymous
The pros and cons of surveillance and surveillance capitalism
  • B Pring
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • F Rose
How big tech built the iron cage
  • A Ross
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • J S Sam
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • R R Thomas
Capitalism’s new clothes
  • E Morozov
Why we choose surveillance capitalism
  • Rosen
How tech companies manipulate our person data
  • J Silverman
Pokémon Go was a warning about the rise of surveillance capitalism
  • S Varghese
I’ve never finished Proust or even The Brothers Karamazov
  • Smith
The coup we are not talking about
  • S Zuboff
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • M Whitehead
Review of Shoshana Zuboff
  • R Weiskopf