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<nettime> Shoshana Zuboff: Dark Google
Florian Cramer on Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:40:49 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Shoshana Zuboff: Dark Google

Published today in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

"We witness the rise of a new absolute power. Google transfers its radical
politics from cyberspace to reality. It will earn its money by knowing,
manipulating, controlling the reality and cutting it into the tiniest


Quotes from the article:

"During the second half of the twentieth century, more education and
> complex social experience produced a new kind of individual. No longer
> content to conform to the mass, more people sought their own unique paths
> to self-determination. [...]

The arrival of the Internet provided a new way forward. [...] This was a
> new 'networked public sphere,' as legal scholar Yochai Benkler called it.
> [...]
> The whole topography of cyberspace then began to morph as Google and
> Facebook shifted away from the ethos of the public web, while carefully
> retaining its rhetoric. They began to develop a new logic of operations in
> what had until then been a blank area. The new zone didn???t  resemble the
> bricks and mortar world of commerce, but neither did it follow the norms of
> the open web. This confused and distracted users. In fact, the firms were
> developing a wholly new business logic that incorporated elements of the
> conventional logic of corporate capitalism ??? especially its adversarialism
> toward end consumers ??? along with elements from the new Internet world ???
> especially its intimacy. The outcome was the elaboration of  a new
> commercial logic based on hidden surveillance. Most people did not
> understand that they and their friends were being tracked, parsed, and
> mined without their knowledge or consent."

So far, these are no new insights for Nettimers. But Zuboff adds two
interesting ideas:

(1) According to her, it's a mistake to think of Internet capitalism having
destroyed privacy, but privacy has just been transferred. It shifted from
individuals to Google and the NSA who "assert a right to privacy with
respect to their surveillance tactics and then exercise their choice to
keep those tactics secret". Zuboff characterizes, from what seems to be a
liberal viewpoint, as a new form of absolutism. Alternatively, it could be
described as a 21st century form of cognitive capitalism that follows the
post-democratic/post-1990 success formula of oligarchical capitalism.

(2) Zuboff quotes Karl Polanyi's model of three "fictional commodities" on
which industrial capitalism is based: the reinvention of human life as
labor, the reinvention of nature as real estate and the reinvention of
purchasing power as money. For Zuboff, Google adds a "fourth fictional
commodity" that is "emerging as a dominant characteristic of market
dynamics in the 21st century": "'Reality' is about to undergo the same kind
of fictional transformation and be reborn as 'behavior.'  This includes the
behavior of  creatures, their bodies, and their things. It includes actual
behavior and data about behavior."


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