The Costs of Connection, book review: A wider view of surveillance capitalism

The Fees of Relationship: How Data Is Colonizing Human Existence and Appropriating It for Capitalism


The Fees of Relationship: How Data Is Colonizing Human Existence and Appropriating It for Capitalism • By Nicholas Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias • Stanford College Press • 324 internet pages • ISBN: 978-1-5036-0974-7 • $thirty

The phrase ‘the fees of connection’ has abruptly taken on a new and additional sinister indicating in the last couple of months, as worldwide and domestic travel hyperlinks — vectors by which human beings carried the novel coronavirus to seed it into open up clusters of new hosts — have been severed. In the to start with 7 days of March, having said that, when Nick Couldry, a professor in media communications and social concept at the LSE, gave a general public talk and attendees even now could gingerly sit a mere 4 ft from each and every other, ‘connection’ seemed purely digital, and ‘costs’ an workout in electrical power somewhat than counted in human life.

It is electrical power that Couldry and his co-writer Ulises A. Mejias, an affiliate professor at SUNY Oswego, look at in The Fees of Relationship: How Data Is Colonizing Human Existence and Appropriating It for Capitalism. In what appears to me an first approach, Couldry and Mejias position the details-pushed entire world into which we’re relocating in the context of colonialism. You examine that right: colonialism — not, as so quite a few some others have it, colonisation.

Couldry and Mejias argue that we are residing via the early levels of a new romantic relationship in between colonialism and capitalism — early levels, due to the fact they consider this is the starting of a new 500-yr era even whilst the consequences of the former a single are even now becoming felt. In their check out, the rush to monetise and income from details is the equivalent of an historic land get to which the new colonial powers come to feel as entitled as any Elizabethan explorer to dictate phrases to natives of overseas lands.

SEE: Sensor’d organization: IoT, ML, and major details (ZDNet exclusive report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

So Couldry and Mejias start out with this query: “What if new ways of appropriating human existence, and the freedoms on which it depends, are emerging?” As a pairing to try this, Couldry and Mejias are beautifully complementary: Couldry is white and English Mejias is Mexican Couldry is descended from exploiters, Mejias from a place that was exploited. In our new era, each and every of us is a mine ready to be dug open up — and we consent by outsourcing handle of even easy steps of day-to-day existence to apps that keep track of water intake, workout prices, and buy foods. In the meantime, providers from airways to taser company Axon make an escalating part of their revenues from details, somewhat than the factor they purport to market.

A much larger landscape

Surveillance capitalism, in this check out, is just a single piece of a substantially much larger landscape of electrical power grabs: office checking that has AI eliminating just about every last little bit of ‘inefficiency’ (the breath you capture in between phone calls the more minute you expend in the privacy of the lavatory) the gig financial state logistics the so-normally neglected inside corporate details social media that intermediate our personalized interactions and before long the World wide web of Points that will flip just about every element of our property life into the wholly-owned residence of the company that produced our appliances.

What’s fantastic about this construct is the perception that Couldry and Mejias are fitting the internet, in all its ‘now-now-now’ insistence, into a substantially broader sweep of historical past than other commentators on the digital era have attempted. Yet they end on a beneficial take note: we even now have a choice. Separately and collectively we can decide that the fees of relationship are not truly worth having to pay and reclaim our human ability to join. Ironically, whilst lockdowns drive us on the internet — damn the details exploitation! — they are also forcing us to join additional closely with our physical neighbours in ways that can’t be so easily colonised.

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