Surveillance and alienation in the online economy

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105 Citations (Scopus)


The critical literature on commercial monitoring and so-called ‘free labour’ (Terranova 2000) locates exploitation in realms beyond the workplace proper, noting the productivity of networked activity including the creation of user-generated-content and the profitability of commercial sites for social networking and communication. The changing context of productivity in these realms, however, requires further development of a critical concept of exploitation. This article defines exploitation as the extraction of unpaid, coerced, and alienated labour. It considers how such a definition might apply to various forms of unpaid but profit-generating online activity, arguing that commercial monitoring redoubles the conscious, intentional activity of users in ways that render it amenable to a critique of exploitation. Given the role of commercial monitoring in the emerging online economy, the paper emphasizes the importance of supplementing privacy critiques with approaches that identify the ways in which new forms of surveillance represent a form of power that seeks to manage and control consumer behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalSurveillance & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

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