4AAVC101 - week 7

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These are my notes from November 07 for 4AAVC101 at King's College London for the 2017-2018 school year. The lecturer, Nick Srnicek, is the author of two excellent books at the intersection of technology and leftist politics: Inventing the Future (with Alex Williams), and Platform Capitalism.

The usual disclaimer: all notes are my personal impressions and do not necessarily reflect the view of the lecturer.

Advertising and the surveillance economy


Big other by Shoshana Zuboff

A paper on surveillance capitalism. Challenges the idea of technological determinism when it comes to big data (it’s shaped by the contours of capitalism etc etc). Focuses on Google’s data extraction practices, as understood via publications written by Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian. Also distinguishes between the economics of high tech corporations (high rev/employee ratio) and the giants in older industries (e.g., Detroit automakers). References Arendt. The “Big Other” as the catch-all term for a totalitarian, computer-mediated surveillance system from which we cannot escape; the biggest consequence is a shift from the means of production as the determinant of power to the means of behavioural modification. The upshot of this kind of technology embodied in a corporation is the undermining of “the historical relationship between markets and democracies”. Pretty great & well worth reading.

The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

Similar to the paper above but written for more of a popular audience. Says that demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists constitutes an existential threat, and that we are ceding our sovereignty and capability for individual self-determination to corporations like Google (which capture “behavioral surplus”). Also quite great.