Gender, colonization, and the limits of surveillance capitalism

The Anti-Dystopians #3

It’s time for podcast number 3! This one is a good one. I talked with Stefanie Felsberger, a PhD candidate in Gender Studies at Cambridge, about her research on surveillance, data flows and mensuration tracking apps (no pun intended). We discuss how colonization impacted the development of surveillance technologies; why we think (or shouldn’t think) about data as a commodity, instead of labor; and how the ownership of knowledge about female bodies has translated into power—from the witch burnings to period apps.

You can listen to it here or subscribe here (Spotify) or here (Apple Podcasts). 

Articles Mentioned in this Podcast

  1. Stefanie’s article “Colonial Cables – The Politics of Surveillance in the Middle East and North Africa.”

  2. The woman who tried to hide her pregnancy from Big Data (and failed) and why pregnant women are such a high value target for advertisers. This isn’t Product Placement™ but if you find yourself wanting to know more about the Smart Period Cup, who are we to stop you?

  3. Amazon experimenting with paying some consumers for their data. They’ve also entered the healthcare market (yikes).

  4. In another example of news that makes you think, “Of course they are, but still”—the US military is buying location data from every day apps, including a Muslim prayer app and Muslim dating site.

  5. More on the testing and importing of technologies development in low rights environments, and how colonization spurred the development of surveillance tech. For a contemporary example, technologies developed by US military contractors in Yemen were used to disburse G20 protesters in Pittsburgh in 2009.

  6. If you want to know about surveillance tech that was used to target the Black Lives Matter protests, go here and here. Or there’s an ACLU overview on surveillance tech available in the US, as well as a list of who has stingray tracking devices. And on the use of police drones to surveil protestors

  7. Virginia Eubanks on how marginalized groups are often governments' test subjects (her full book on the subject here or here.) Relatedly, how Baltimore became the US’s lab for developing surveillance tech.

  8. How the UNHCR is collecting iris data from refugees in Jordan.

  9. For Chinese companies’ role in Africa and the Middle East, watch part II of this documentary.

  10. On the NSO Group and how their tech was linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s phone.

More academic books and articles:

1.) Jarrett, Kylie. 2016. Feminism, Labour and Digital Media: The Digital Housewife. New York and London: Routledge. 2.) Lupton, Deborah. 2016. The Quantified Self: A Sociology of Self-Tracking. Cambridge: Polity Press. 3.) Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the Witch. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia. 4.) Browne, Simone. 2015. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham and London: Duke University Press. 5.) Fuchs, Christian. 2013. “Theorizing and Analyzing Digital Labor: From Global Value Chains to Modes of Production.” The Political Economy of Communication 2, no. 1: 3–27. 6.) Kaplan, Martha. 1995. “Panopticon in Poona: An Essay on Foucault and Colonialism.” Cultural Anthropology 10: 85-98. 7.) Mitchell, Timothy. 1988. Colonizing Egypt. Berkley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.

Things I’m Reading

Things You’re Reading

Peter Thiel associate Joe Lonsdale runs a cloud-based software for governments. Tracking governments’ cloud computing providers is my latest obsession—send ones you find!

Apparently, Elon Musk’s (and Peter Thiel’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s) SpaceX also runs the StarLink satellite Internet service. I really hope the company goes public soon so we can all read the SEC filings—just what are these space companies up to? (I’m actually asking.)

Amazon released Amazon Sidewalk this week. Will someone tell me what it is and why it’s bad?

Or, anything else you find interesting—send my way!