The Surveillance-Innovation Complex: The Irony of the Participatory Turn

In Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne & Tamar Tembeck, eds., The Participatory Condition (University of Minnesota Press, 2015, Forthcoming)

14 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2014 Last revised: 21 Jul 2015

Julie E. Cohen

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: June 19, 2014

Abstract

Over the last several decades, surveillance has become increasingly privatized and commercialized and increasingly participatory. This shift has challenged established habits of conceptualizing surveillance as discipline and control. Surveillance theorists have responded by turning to theories of networked flow, mass-mediated commodification, and performance to help explain the social, political, and psychological effects of surveillance. This chapter steps into that discussion, arguing that the effects of the participatory turn in surveillance are even more fundamental, and concern the extent to which we understand surveillance as itself subject to regulation. The rhetorics of participation and innovation that characterize the participatory turn work to position surveillance as an activity exempted from legal and social control. The resulting model of surveillance is light, politically nimble, and relatively impervious to regulatory constraint. Commentators have long noted the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex: a symbiotic relationship between state surveillance and private-sector producers of surveillance technologies. The emerging surveillance-innovation complex represents a new, politically opportunistic phase of this symbiosis, one that casts surveillance in an unambiguously progressive light and repositions it as a modality of economic growth.

Keywords: surveillance, privacy, innovation, participation, gamification, open access, deep capture

JEL Classification: L50, K23, K40, O33, O38, P10, Z10

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Julie E., The Surveillance-Innovation Complex: The Irony of the Participatory Turn (June 19, 2014). In Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne & Tamar Tembeck, eds., The Participatory Condition (University of Minnesota Press, 2015, Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2466708

Julie E. Cohen (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9871 (Phone)
202-662-9411 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/jec/

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