[Humanist] 31.802 more effective than protest?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 4 08:15:49 CEST 2018

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 802.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 4 May 2018 06:55:22 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: cheaper than prisons

The New York Review of Books for 24 May features a review by Simon Head, 
"Big Brother Goes Digital", which begins with a photo of protesters in 
Berlin, one dressed as a surveillance camera, others holding a sign that 
reads, "Überwachung -- Billiger als Gefängnisse, Beliebter als 
Erschiessen" ('Surveillance: Cheaper than prisons, more popular than 
shooting"). He begins:

> In her seminal work The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human 
> Feeling (1983), the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described a 
> workplace practice known as "emotional labor management." Hochschild 
> was studying the extreme kinds of "emotional labor" that airline 
> stewardesses, bill collectors, and shop assistants, among others,
> had to perform in their daily routines. They were obliged, in her
> words, "to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the
> outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in
> others." In the case of airline stewardesses, the managers and human
> resources staff of the airline companies relied on reports from
> passengers or management spies to make sure that stewardesses kept up
> their cheerful greetings and radiant smiles no matter what.... But
> in the twenty-first century, new technologies have emerged that
> enable companies as varied as Amazon, the British supermarket chain
> Tesco, Bank of America, Hitachi, and the management consultants
> Deloitte to achieve what Hochschild's managers could only imagine:
> continuous oversight of their workers' behavior.

Much could be said. Shoshana Zuboff said it far better than I could (In 
the Age of the Smart Machine, 1988) of a somewhat earlier technological 
state. But apart from what anyone who is morally outraged could say, 
given what as digitally committed scholars and fellow travellers in the 
humanities we are good at saying, how do we respond? What is to be done 
in/with digital humanities?

Allow me to suggest, because it is the only suggestion I can defend, one 
word, 'education', and so to offer for discussion this (I hope) better 
question: how would we best educate? What thought-seed would we plant? 
What life worth living would we describe in terms so appealing that the 
chains Marx spoke of would fall off of their own accord?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews

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