[artinfo] Shoshana Zuboff: Dark Google

Florian Cramer fcramer at pleintekst.nl
Thu May 1 12:28:18 CEST 2014

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


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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