Surveillance Conceptual Art

I’m currently working my way through Shoshana Zuboff’s epic book “Surveillance Capitalism” and I’m struck by some soft similarities between said form of late capitalism and the forms of Conceptual art (with a capital C) I was drawn to while working on my MFA. In particular, I’m thinking of the work of Sophie Calle, such as The Hotel series, in which she was hired as a temporary maid for a hotel and observed, documented, and extrapolated from her interactions with the guest’s personal items narratives of who they may be.

This type of work could not have been created without a framework of how to value anonymity and the observations of others from a point of assumed anonymity. Calle was able to lay claim, in a way, to the assumed actions and interactions of the hotel guests.

This brings me back to Surveillance Capitalism and the claims that have been made on digital anonymity. Zuboff lays out the following as examples of the claims that Google (or any data-gathering for profit corporation) has used:

  • We claim human experience as raw material free for the taking. On the basis of this claim, we can ignore considerations of individuals’ rights, interests, awareness, or comprehension.
  • On the basis of our claim, we assert the right to take an individual’s experience for translation into behavioral data.
  • Our right to take, based on our claim of free raw material, confers the right to own the behavioral data derived from human experience.
  • Our rights to take and to own confer the right to know what the data disclose.
  • Our rights to take, to own, and to know confer the right to decide how we use our knowledge.
  • Our rights to take, to own, to know, and to decide confer our rights to the conditions that preserve our rights to take, to own, to know, and to decide.

How much overlap is there between the strategies of Conceptual art and this new form of economic order?