Recommended ReadsJuly 6th, 2021

Surveillance tech and the weaponisation of care (won’t somebody think of the children?)

Ryley Lawson
Ryley Lawson, Senior Design Researcher

This is my last contribution to this newsletter. It seemed like a nice opportunity to round up two of my most frequently written about themes (maybe like a Greatest Hits album?): cultures of care and the violence of surveillance tech.

I still remember how unnerved I felt when I first encountered Amazon’s surveillance-system-as-household-good, the Ring doorbell.

How it works: you walk past my front door, I get a notification to my phone. I can set the system up so that everyone in the house gets a notification, but I don’t have to. I can be the only one who knows who is coming and going.

The Ring has a whole section of its website dedicated to heartwarming stories, such as: “No matter where you are, with Ring, you are always close to people who mean the most.”

As Autumm Caines writes, “The language of care is deployed to justify greater and greater intrusions.” Surveillance tech companies prey upon our desire to care for and protect those we love. It does this in gendered ways: surveillance and the gender norms around care are used to reinforce each other.

Every time I see a Ring out in the wild, I can’t help but wonder who is watching, and who their object of surveillance is.


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