Digital powers: Surveillance and economic logics in a datafied world

Some scholars churn out paper after paper with small arguments and thinly sliced contributions, and may compile them into books that connect the dots and offer broader perspectives. Others leave fewer, but much bigger footprints. Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School, certainly falls in the second category. Her first book, In the age of the smart machine: The future of work and power (Zuboff, 1985), remains a pillar in fields of research focusing on digital technologies, information systems, organization and management, and knowledge production.

Against transparency: Surveillant assemblages, partition and the limits of digital democracy

In this short book, just 64 pages, Clare Birchall addresses the shifting relationships between data and citizens to unpack what big data, transparency and openness, mean for democracy and the government of subjects. It stands as an interesting read alongside Zuboff’s (2019) voluminous The age of surveillance capitalism, not only for the contrast in page count, but also for the distinct theoretical take and the greater focus on the role of the State.

The social productivity of anonymity

In a process that started decades ago, a multiplicity of forces is creating a slow, but steadily rising storm against anonymity. Discourses of transparency and accountability often describe anonymity as a threat. Technologies such as the IP-address-based Internet, sensory devices, and machine learning techniques further undermine anonymous encounters. In an age of near ubiquitous surveillance, anonymity is under attack. But what is at stake in such discourses and developments?

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