Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in an Age of High Technology

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9780226285917: Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in an Age of High Technology

We live in an age saturated with surveillance. Our personal and public lives are increasingly on display for governments, merchants, employers, hackers—and the merely curious—to see. In Windows into the Soul, Gary T. Marx, a central figure in the rapidly expanding field of surveillance studies, argues that surveillance itself is neither good nor bad, but that context and comportment make it so.

In this landmark book, Marx sums up a lifetime of work on issues of surveillance and social control by disentangling and parsing the empirical richness of watching and being watched. Using fictional narratives as well as the findings of social science, Marx draws on decades of studies of covert policing, computer profiling, location and work monitoring, drug testing, caller identification, and much more, Marx gives us a conceptual language to understand the new realities and his work clearly emphasizes the paradoxes, trade-offs, and confusion enveloping the field. Windows into the Soul shows how surveillance can penetrate our social and personal lives in profound, and sometimes harrowing, ways. Ultimately, Marx argues, recognizing complexity and asking the right questions is essential to bringing light and accountability to the darker, more iniquitous corners of our emerging surveillance society.

For more information, please see www.garymarx.net.

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About the Author:

Gary T. Marx is professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of Undercover: Police Surveillance in America. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New Republic.

Review:

“A challenging, thoughtful, erudite and at times very entertaining book. It is a work that draws on Marx’s long experience, detailed empirical research and intense scholarship, but weaves these things together without the loss of coherence of narrative that so often dogs academic work. . . . The coverage is breathtakingly broad and the book is a long one, supplemented by additional material on Marx’s website. . . . Not only an important book but a necessary one.”

(Times Higher Education)

“Nobody in field of surveillance studies has read, reflected on, or written about these trends with as much insight, wisdom, and humor as Marx. He has never been afraid to push the boundaries of social inquiry, not only by developing new theories, metaphors, or models, but by patiently amassing a rich variety of facts, stories, cases, incidents, and anecdotes and by trying to make some sense of the staggering and increasing propensity for surveillance. He relishes complexity and ambiguity and constantly tries to disaggregate and classify, not out of some infatuation with taxonomies for their own sake, but in a belief that we can only build generalizations about social trends if we are sensitive to context. Windows Into the Soul should be widely read for many years to come.” (Colin J. Bennett, author of The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance)

“Marx’s latest book Windows into the Soul is a treasure—a joyful, entertaining sociological work reflecting a lifetime of study. It brings wisdom, experience, enthusiasm, and humor to complex issues affecting everyone. The book is useful and fun to read, containing provocative chapters such as those on work monitoring (‘The Omniscient Organization’) and national security/law enforcement (‘Rocky Bottoms’). Furthermore, it makes great use of images and music to illustrate how we experience surveillance through popular culture. This is a book for the general reader as well as the specialist.” (Minas Samatas, author of Surveillance in Greece)

“Marx walks readers through how to evaluate all the new data that today’s surveillance technologies can collect, and he examines the issues that data can raise. He uses social-science research and his own interviews and observations to explore and explain the ethical, political, and cultural arguments that are used to justify and oppose surveillance efforts—and to look at their effects on people’s social, personal, and professional lives.” (MIT Technology Review)

“Few scholars have done more to shape the public understanding of the surveillance society than Marx. Drawing on theory and interviews, law and culture, Greek philosophers and rock and roll lyrics, Marx has made interesting and accessible the world of the watcher and the watched. Windows into the Soul carries forward a lifetime of inquiry and exploration. More than any other scholar, Marx has placed the study of surveillance before the public in a way that is rich in insight and filled with light touches.” (Marc Rotenberg, editor Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions)

“Marx has played a vital role in anchoring surveillance studies as a distinct and important area of research. . . . Marx’s playful writing and crisp articulation make surveillance and social control approachable and coherent for inquiring minds and researchers old and new. . . . Marx has a presence in Windows that awards the book personality and wit, as pages are brought to life with humor, pop culture references, cartoons, and stories (both fictional and real). . . . The text is a must-read for anyone entering the field.” (Justin E. C. Tetrault Policing and Society)

“Marx, a retired MIT scholar of the scrutiny of individuals through new and sophisticated technology, has written a book revisiting his conclusions after a long career as a sort of Sixties-oriented sociology expert on surveillance and its impact on individuals’ autonomy and privacy. . . . Marx has always peppered his scholarship with whimsy and wit, and his latest work is no exception.” (Privacy Journal)

“Just when you think that you have read everything necessary about the surveillance state, comes this exceptional volume by a leading scholar that provides a whole book full of new insights and observations into an age old subject. Drawing on psychology, sociology, and keen observations, this is a text you will not want to miss.” (Amitai Etzioni, author of Privacy in a Cyber Age)

“Sociologist Marx is one of the pioneers in surveillance studies. . . . Thirty years after his famous publication on undercover police he has now published a second, far reaching monograph. . . . Windows into the Soul impresses the reader through its content, as well as through its analytic stringency and the density of the material offered. . . . With ease, Marx approaches the complex and difficult questions of contemporary surveillance culture. Without any doubt, this must be defined as his ‘Opus magnum’ and rightfully so. However, in the reading it is much lighter and more entertaining than such a heavy title would make the reader believe.” (Hanna Reichel Criminologia)

“In Windows into the Soul, Marx takes a critical social science approach to the study of surveillance and social control. Marx’s exploration of the field of surveillance studies is cumulative and inclusive, involving empirical, theoretical, ethical, and practical questions. References to literature, cinema, and pop culture are woven throughout the book, adding humor and illustration to Marx’s close study of a fascinating topic. . . . Marx concludes that the ideal is ‘a positive information society based on fairness, dignity, care, openness, trust, security, autonomy/participation, and communality, rather than a negative surveillance society based on unfairness, commodification, coercion, secrecy, suspicion, insecurity, domination/repression, and atomization.’” (Claire Gartland, EPIC Alert)

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