Surveillance Capitalist Aesthetics

Rosamond, Emily. 2018. Surveillance Capitalist Aesthetics. In: Katleen Vermeir and Ronny Heiremans, eds. A Modest Proposal. Brussels: Jubilee vzw, pp. 31-35. ISBN 9789082966206 [Book Section]

Surveillance Capitalist Aesthetics.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (99kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

In 2015 Shoshana Zuboff coined the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe a new regime of accumulation, according to which analysing and intervening in behaviour becomes directly profitable. Companies such as Google offer free services (for example, email), but use these to collect information on their users. This information – analyzed into ersatz subjectivities – is then sold on to advertisers seeking highly targeted audiences. Although etymologically, surveillance refers to ‘watching over,’ surveillance capitalism’s relationship to ‘watching’ is hardly straightforward. Information on online users may be directly operationalized (by a company’s proprietary machine-learning algorithm, seeking to infer gender from online activity, for example). However, this information – and the subjects from whom it is expropriated – is hardly ‘watched’ or ‘seen’ in the strict sense – either by machines or by human attendants. Thus, surveillance capitalism has a paradoxical relationship to watching, and to the visible. In light of these complexities, what might a theory of surveillance capitalist aesthetics look like? How might artworks and other cultural artefacts try to make sense of the (in)consequential nature of the sensible within this regime of accumulation – with its hyper-visible subjects and hyper-proprietary means for their interpretation? This talk opens up a few avenues of exploration toward a surveillance capitalist aesthetics, by remarking on the aesthetics of reputational value, and the particularities of addressivity in surveillance-capitalist scenarios.

Item Type:

Book Section


surveillance capitalism, aesthetics

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 October 2018Accepted
31 December 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2019 10:21

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 17:06


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)