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Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism

Thomas Allmer

The aim of this book is to clarify how surveillance in informational capitalism can be theorised. This work constructs theoretically founded typologies in order to systemise the existing literature of surveillance studies and to analyse selected examples. It argues that conventional surveillance theories are insufficient for studying surveillance in general and Internet surveillance in particular. In contrast, a typology of surveillance in informational capitalism, which is based on the foundations of a critical political economy approach, allows to systemise and to analyse (online) surveillance in the spheres of production, circulation, and consumption. In conclusion, political recommendations are drawn in order to overcome surveillance in informational capitalism.

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1. Introduction ............................................................................................................... 11 2. Foundations of Surveillance Theory .................................................................. 17 2.1. Foucault’s Theory of Surveillance and the Panopticon ................................. 18 2.2. Non-Panoptic Theories of Surveillance ........................................................... 24 2.3. Panoptic Theories of Surveillance ..................................................................... 32 2.4. Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 39 3. A Critical Contribution to Surveillance Studies .............................................. 47 3.1. Spheres of the Economy .................................................................................... 47 3.2. Surveillance in the Spheres of the Economy ................................................... 49 3.2.1. Surveillance in the Sphere of Production ................................................... 49 3.2.2. Surveillance in the Sphere of Circulation ................................................... 58 3.2.3. Surveillance in the Sphere of Consumption .............................................. 62 3.3. Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 67 4. Foundations of Internet Surveillance Theory .................................................. 73 4.1. Non-Panoptic Theories of Internet Surveillance ........................................... 74 4.2. Panoptic Theories of Internet Surveillance ..................................................... 82 4.3. Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 90 5. A Critical Contribution to Internet Surveillance Studies ............................. 99 5.1. Internet Surveillance in the Sphere of Production ......................................... 99 5.2. Internet Surveillance in the Sphere of Circulation ....................................... 102 5.3. Internet Surveillance in the Sphere of Consumption ................................... 108 5.4. Conclusion .......................................................................................................... 114 6. Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 117 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 127 7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: A panoptic prison building in 2005 ................................................................ 23 Figure 2: Production, circulation, and consumption as dialectically mediated spheres of the economy ............................................................................................ 48 Figure 3: Watch book for time study .............................................................................. 54 Figure 4: The television audience .................................................................................... 66 Figure 5: Kroll’s advertising for background screening services .............................. 102 Figure 6: Carratu International brochure of employee screening services ............. 103 Figure 7: Traffic rank for Porn Hub ............................................................................. 108 Figure 8: Illustration of Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick in 2008 ................... 111 Figure 9: Towards a critical theory of surveillance in informational capitalism ..... 115 9 LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Foundations of...

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