English Seminar: Utopias and Dystopias in Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
‘Big Other Is Watching You: Utopias and Dystopias in Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’
Abstract: Shoshana Zuboff’s international bestseller, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for A Human Future At the New Frontier of Power (2019), was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal as a book that asks us “to pause long enough to think about the future and how it might be different from today.” That description could work as the definition of the literary utopia or dystopia. In fact, Zuboff’s book has consecutive chapters titled “Big Other and the Rise of Instrumentalist Power” and “A Utopia of Uncertainty”. In the former chapter, the title of which seems to reference George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Zuboff argues that there now exists a “ubiquitous digital apparatus” that “renders, monitors, computes and modifies human behaviour”. In the latter chapter she asserts that the “surveillance capitalist leaders [such as Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page, CEOs of Facebook and Google respectively] are sui generis utopianists”. This talk critically assesses the place of utopian and dystopian literature in Zuboff’s study, discussing what she explains about the age of surveillance capitalism in terms of utopias and dystopias, and what, perhaps, she misses.
Peter Marks is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Sydney, where he worked happily from nearly a decade before the invention or invocation of Facebook, until 2021. He is the author of books including George Orwell The Essayist: Literature, Politics and the Periodical Culture; Imagining Surveillance: Eutopian and Dystopian Literature and Film, and British Literature of the 1990s: Endings and Beginnings, and is the chief editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures, which came out earlier this year. He is currently working on his ARC Discovery Project “The International Orwell: Case Studies from Eastasia, Oceania and Eurasia”.
Event | online and on-campus
All meetings will be delivered via Zoom. The event will also be held on campus: John Woolley Building, Woolley Common Room.
Contact: Liam Semler (email@example.com).