e-flux Conversations has been closed to new contributions and will remain online as an archive. Check out our new platform for short-form writing, e-flux Notes.

e-flux conversations

Facebook turned Evgeny Morozov into a Marxist (sort of)

In an extensive interview with the New Left Review, Evgeny Morozov explains how his realization of the alarming extent of data-mining engaged in by companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter led to a change in his political views. He no longer thinks that regulation and public policy can curb these abuses:

I originally regarded myself as in the pragmatic centre of the spectrum, more or less social democratic in outlook. My reorientation came with an expansion of the kind of questions I was prepared to accept as legitimate. So whereas five years ago or so, I would be content to search for better, more effective ways to regulate the likes of Google and Facebook, today it’s not something I spend much time on. Instead, I am questioning who should run and own both the infrastructure and the data running through it, since I no longer believe that we can accept that all these services ought to be delivered by the market and regulated only after the fact.

Indeed, it’s refreshing to hear such a well-respected tech writer like Morozov say that issues of surveillance cannot be address by more or better technology, but rather by politics:

At some point in the summer and fall of 2013 I started paying attention to the growing commodification of personal data. Basically, now that everything is in one way or another mediated by Silicon Valley—all these smart beds and smart cars and smart everything—it’s possible to capture and monetize every moment we spend awake (and, it seems, also asleep). So we are all invited to become data entrepreneurs curating our data portfolios. Analytically, of course, this ‘datafication’ of everything is an extension of the much broader phenomenon of the financialization of everyday life. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this is happening and how it can be stopped and it became obvious to me that the answers to these questions had far more to do with politics than with technology. I also realized that I could continue coming up with alternative policy proposals all I wanted, but they still wouldn’t be accepted, for structural reasons.

Read the rest of the interview at the New Left Review’s website.