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Social Media as Surveillance: Rethinking Visibility in a Converging World Hardcover – 28 Sep 2012


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Prize: Winner, 2013 Surveillance Studies Network Annual Book Prize 'Internet platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google have become very popular in recent years. They process, store, analyse, and commodify a lot of personal data, usage behaviour data, communication data, and social network data. Daniel Trottier's book is a crucial and critical resource and must-read for all who want to understand the implications social media has for surveillance at the interpersonal and institutional level and for surveillance conducted by companies and the police.' Christian Fuchs, Uppsala University, Sweden 'Social media are not just sites that we visit, but increasingly places where we reside. Such spaces are manufactured to augment surveillance, fostering types of visibility that are central to new forms of sociality and power relations. Professor Trottier's book is an invaluable analysis of how a complex assortment of groups are making a home in this new domain of interactive monitoring.' Kevin D. Haggerty, University of Alberta, Canada 'Looking for a wide-ranging, well-informed, up-to-date critical sociology of social media surveillance, focused on the Facebook phenomenon? This is it.' David Lyon, Queen's University, Canada 'Social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have become "information warehouses", processing, storing, and analyzing a wide range of personal, communication and usage behavior data. Daniel Trottier's book Social Media as Surveillance is a great resource for readers to understand social media surveillance at the interpersonal or institutional levels, where "surveillance" has been conducted by individuals, companies, or the government agencies in the virtual world... Trottier's research collects data through detailed interviews with interested parties, such as students, university employees, business owners, and police. These interviews not only reveal how social media is used as surveillance tools, but also discovered what is happening and what people think might be happening now. The book gives an insight into both the positive and the negative sides of the social media surveillance issue, as well as some early warnings to future developments... No one can afford to ignore the power of social media. Information needs and behavior studies will focus on social media, thanks to the development of new technology. As an instructor of library and information science, I recommend Trottier's book for MLIS students, librarians, and other information professionals (i.e., data/business intelligence analyst). They will find a great deal of practical information in this work, especially related to data collection and analysis issues, based on Trottier's research.' First Monday 'The breadth of the book allows the readers to get a holistic, multidimensional understanding of social media surveillance in a converging world. Using everyday anecdotes that are familiar to those of us who are addicted to Facebook makes the writing accessible; the book successfully engages the reader in more serious subjects... the book is filled with keen and highly illuminating observations, and it stimulates fresh debate about the present and future of social media as surveillance. It makes a good contribution both to the field of privacy and surveillance studies and to broader discussions among Internet studies scholars. Social Media as Surveillance should also be considered an addition to the classroom because of its inviting writing style and presentation.' Journal of Mass Media Ethics 'Trottier develops his argument in a clear and concise manner. His text is organized in a logical fashion and his interview findings are the centrepiece of the work. This text provides a strong overview of social media surveillance as an everyday practice.' Canadian Journal of Communication 'What Trottier has achieved with Social Media as Surveillance is useful breadth in a cohesive, accessible, well delivered and thoughtful guide through these issues and concepts associated with contemporary on-line life. Fixed in a clear structure with early introductions of concepts, overviews, literature reviews and subsequent chapters exploring topics such as interpersonal, institutional and marketing uses of surveillance, this work discusses the changes and challenges of living online and, as such, what kind of environment this 'digital enclosure' presents. ... Daniel Trottier has produced a wide-ranging book with thought-proving discussion and examples that would serve well as both an introduction to this area and to add to a media studies library on the topic of social media and everyday life.' Sociological Research Online 'Daniel Trottier's interesting, timely and well-informed new book takes [discussion] a step further by focusing not only on potential privacy invasions but on social media as (and for) surveillance and how this fundamentally changes visibility. ... Trottier's book is clearly a sociological account, but it is also an interesting read for academics from other disciplines interested in surveillance issues relating to and emerging from social media. The empirical work might have a limited time of relevance, because of the accelerated nature of this field; however, a number of relevant and thought-provoking issues are introduced and discussed which make the book worthwhile.' Cultural Sociology 'In his book, Daniel Trottier has sought to understand how the harvesting of personal information for institutional, business or policing purposes - which, on the social media, is an ongoing task - can change people's life. ... With this book, Trottier has provided a valuable contribution to the empirical study of everyday surveillance practices. The book is clear and well organized, two qualities which also make it suitable for teaching purposes.' Tecnoscienza 'I think this is a very valuable contribution bringing together surveillance studies and social media research on different levels.' European Journal of Communication 'Daniel Trottier's book comes at just the right moment to offer an insight on social media in all its particularities, but more importantly to address a new domain of monitoring: social media surveillance. ... Trottier has written an excellent book about a social phenomenon that will have a lasting impact. With this book he sets the agenda for the studying of social media (Facebook) as surveillance. Social Media as Surveillance will guide future researchers in their attempts to unravel online dwellings.' Surveillance and Society

About the Author

Daniel Trottier is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Social and Digital Media at the University of Westminster, UK.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8e732af8) out of 5 stars 1 review
HASH(0x8e9aac60) out of 5 stars Understanding social media surveillance at interpersonal and institutional levels 1 April 2013
By CB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
[this review first appeared in First Monday, Volume 18, Number 4 - 1 April 2013]

Social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have become "information warehouses", processing, storing, and analyzing a wide range of personal, communication and usage behavior data. Daniel Trottier's book Social media as surveillance is a great resource for readers to understand social media surveillance at the interpersonal or institutional levels, where "surveillance" has been conducted by individuals, companies, or the government agencies in the virtual world.

This book discusses risks posed by social media surveillance for information users far beyond privacy concerns, hence traditional "care and vigilance" is inefficient. Thus, attempts to manage individual or institutional online presence are significantly complicated by social media. For example, Facebook friends routinely expose each other, and such information transfers from one context to another, even though the "targets" say nothing about themselves.

Social media as surveillance presents empirical research with a range of personal and professional social media users (such as individuals, institutions, marketers, and police agencies). Using Facebook as a case study, Trottier describes rapidly growing multi-purpose social media monitoring practices. Such scrutiny activities augment one another and lead to a quick spread of online information (visibility), which is vital for new sociality and power relations.

Trottier's research collects data through detailed interviews with interested parties, such as students, university employees, businesses owners, and police. These interviewees not only reveal how social media is used as surveillance tools, but also discover what is happening and what people think might be happening now. The book gives an insight into both the positive and the negative sides of the social media surveillance issue, as well as some early warnings to future developments.

Trottier examines four different aspects of surveillance: interpersonal surveillance (through which people monitor each other); institutional surveillance (through which institutions,i.e., universities or employers, watch over their students or employees); market surveillance (through which businesses track their customers, potential customers, or even random Web surfers) and policing surveillance (through which authorities might spy on technically anything).

The book devotes a chapter to each aspect. First, students emerge as both spies and the spied-on, which are aware of both aspects. They know and dislike being "scanned" by their parents, potential employers, exes and friends, but they accept it and see Facebook as something they have to be on. The interviewees also change online and off-line behaviors due to their awareness of personal surveillance activities.

Chapters on the role of institutions and businesses are dedicated to organizational efforts to work out what is going on and how to deal with social media. However, issues suggested by the interviews might be unrepresentative. The chapter on policing social media shows complex challenges for authorities, such as self-policing by online community members, policing by consent, police visibility and outreach, undercover activities online, etc.

More interestingly, the first two chapters of this book are theoretical and include an extensive literature review, which help readers become familiar with topics discussed in later chapters. I agree with the author's conclusion: social media surveillance is an important subject becoming more relevant in the near future. The concluding section also asks some open-ended questions, which might become "launching pads" for future studies.

Individual, institutional, market, security and intelligence forms of surveillance co-exist with each other on social media. Therefore, this book is an invaluable analysis of the new domain of interactive monitoring. Compared with Facebook, Twitter might be an ideal platform to analyze public opinion (another area for further research). However, for some countries, such as China, Weibo (micro-blogging at [...]) plays a much more prominent role than Facebook and Twitter.

In the mean time, social media has been experiencing some significant changes since the author completed his interviews, such as "real name" and "real deletion" issues. In the policing chapters, the increasing use of prosecutions or police reactions for certain social media activities merit more discussion. On the other hand, this book's interviews were largely conducted in Canada, which might also become a concern for readers from other regions.

No one can afford to ignore the power of social media. Information needs and behaviors studies will focus on social media, thanks to the development of new technology. As an instructor of library and information science, I recommend Trottier's book for MLIS students, librarians, and other information professionals (i.e., data/business intelligence analyst). They will find a great deal of practical information in this work, especially related to data collection and analysis issues, based on Trottier's research. -- Yijun Gao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University.

Copyright © 2013, First Monday.

Review of Social media as surveillance: Rethinking visibility in a converging world
by Yijun Gao.
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