Exploring the Subjective Experience of Everyday Surveillance: The Case of Smartphone Devices as Means of Facilitating "Seductive" Surveillance

Troullinou, Pinelopi (2017). Exploring the Subjective Experience of Everyday Surveillance: The Case of Smartphone Devices as Means of Facilitating "Seductive" Surveillance. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000cd85


In western societies, the dependence on Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) is rapidly increasing. Smartphones, in particular, seem to be the most popular digital devices as they are an all-in-one digital gadget that due to Internet connection serves a wide range of purposes. However, in the context of neoliberal capitalism where the traditionally distinct spheres of security and marketing have merged, data generated through these personal devices can also be used for state and market purposes raising serious societal concerns. The present study contributes to the call for the understanding of the subjective experience of everyday surveillance operating through personal digital devices.

Focusing on smartphones as a consumption product, the study draws mainly upon design technology and consumer research literature to suggest the theoretical framework of seductive surveillance in order to shed light on the reasons why individuals ‘willingly’ participate to their surveillance. The discourse analysis of thirteen focus groups - conducted amongst students in British universities - and follow up emails showed that participants have developed a dependent relationship with their smartphones based on notions of security, gamification, immediacy and neophilia.

These discursive patterns reveal participants’ seduction to smartphones and consequently to surveillance. This seduced position sheds light on the three ‘resistant’/power diagnostic discourses emanating from the analysis: resignation, avoidance and responsibilization, all being negotiation strategies with surveillance as form of power which unfold in different ways and enabled the person to remain seduced. Surveillance met different resistance, as power diagnostic discourse, depending on the acknowledgement of the ‘face’ of the surveillant Other. These findings have theoretical and practical implications. A methodological contribution is also made using visual vignettes to raise discussion on the issue in question.

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