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The Spatialities of Surveillance Capitalism: Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘new frontier of power’

BEVINGTON, REBECCA,LOUISE (2021) The Spatialities of Surveillance Capitalism: Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘new frontier of power’. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Digital technologies have come to frame the everyday interactions of our world, meshing together public and private spaces into seamless singular platforms for work, socialisation and leisure. At the centre of these transformations are the market imperatives of companies who trade in predictions based upon behavioural data, utilising a range of surveillance strategies to capture information that helps to craft the most effective interventions into the state of play of our lives. While surveillance technologies, data mining practices and algorithm-based marketing have become increasingly ubiquitous over recent years, the implications of their operations - including how data is used, who has access to it, and how far privacy laws are able to protect against its potential harms - are less clear.

Shoshana Zuboff’s 2018 book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power provides a thorough overview of these issues, constructing a new vocabulary with which to identify the oppressive digital processes which quietly shape behaviour on a colossal scale. Although the book has experienced a high level of visibility, briefly becoming a bestseller in 2019, recent critical reflections point towards a number of shortcomings in Zuboff’s analysis - including her commitment to the argument that the current regime takes the form of a political and economic system ‘gone rogue’ from the capitalism of history. This dissertation argues that speculative fiction offers a particularly valuable space to test out Zuboff’s predictions and conclusions. By identifying the overlapping theoretical strands which converge in Surveillance Capitalism and mapping these onto an array of contemporary literary texts, including Dave Eggers’ The Circle, Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina, this project seeks to explore spaces beyond the limitations of Zuboff’s analysis.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Surveillance; capitalism; literary analysis; fiction; dystopian; speculative; science fiction; SF; Shoshana Zuboff; critical theory; Marxism; digital; data capitalism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Jun 2021 15:08

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