Workplace surveillance: an overview

This article attempts to review the proliferation of research findings about surveillance in the workplace and the issues surrounding it. It establishes a number of points of departure when considering the issue of workplace surveillance, before reviewing some of the more critical issues. First, it establishes that organizations and surveillance go hand in hand; and that workplace surveillance can take social and technological forms. Personal data gathering, Internet and email monitoring, location tracking, biometrics and covert surveillance are all areas of development. There is also evidence that groups of employees are appropriating information and communication technologies to stare back at their employers, exposing unsavoury practices and organizing collectively, prompting new thinking about resistance. Organizations watch employees primarily to protect their assets, although the nature and intensity of surveillance says much about how a company views its employees. Workplace surveillance has consequences for employees, affecting employee well-being, work culture, productivity, creativity and motivation. If no alternative can be found, managerial attention to task design, supervisory processes, employees’ expectations about monitoring, and an appraisal of the company’s operating e vironment can mediate its downsides. It is argued that in many ways the normality of workplace surveillance, and the prevalence of arguments about how to ‘do it better’, make it difficult to radicalize. As part of what is seen as ‘good’ management practice, it can confer benefits on the employee if conducted in a humane, balanced way, and is considered on a case-by-case – organization-by-organization – basis. However, the introduction of broader debates around information use, rights, power and social structure highlights how surveillance in the workplace may serve to perpetuate existing inequalities and create new ones


Posted in Surveillance, Workplace | Tagged ,

Reasons why Poverty Reduces Self-Control

When considering poverty, our national conversation often turns to its origins. It is natural for us to look for attributes of a person that led him or her to poverty, such as poor self-control. David Brooks of The New York Times, for instance, placed the blame on poor people’s lack of virtue. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Congressman Paul Ryan argues that poor people’s individual choices are at fault. Bad choices can certainly be a factor in poverty. But just because someone makes bad choices doesn’t mean they lack virtue or have no self-control. To the contrary, psychology research has discovered a variety of perfectly good reasons why poor people make the choices they do. These reasons explains how a smart, moral person can become trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Together, these reasons are enough for anyone to give up. But the point of this article is not to say that poverty is hopeless. Science has identified lots of ways to teach people how to become better at self-control. The key to helping people is not to blame them but instead to address the underlying factors that perpetuate poverty, especially early in life.


Posted in Decision making, Poverty | Tagged ,

Recent Theories of Civil Disobedience

A significant shift appears underway in contemporary thinking about civil disobedience. While liberal Anglophone philosophers in the 1960s and 1970s regularly underscored how politically motivated law-breaking could be interpreted as supportive of the rule of law, present-day scholarly accounts frequently depict conscientious illegality as potentially expressing what Martin Luther King, a key political inspiration behind much of the academic debate, dubbed the “very highest respect for the law.” The initially paradoxical intuition that nonviolent law-breaking is sometimes necessary to preserve the law, that it constitutes what John Rawls aptly described as “disobedience to law within the limits of fidelity to law,” tends to vanish from the purview of recent theorists of civil disobedience. For a surprising range of thinkers, it is now anachronistic. For radical critics, it is time to move beyond the “hairsplitting legalistic” orientation of the standard liberal model, which forecloses possibilities for creative protest and stands in the way of far-reaching change.4 For many others, it is simply a matter of recognizing that civil disobedience is best understood primarily as a conscientious moral challenge to the law. The final result, in an event, obscures civil disobedience’s identifiably legal contours.


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Make Strategic Thinking Part of Your Job

It’s a common complaint among top executives: “I’m spending all my time managing trivial and tactical problems, and I don’t have time to get to the big-picture stuff.” And yet when I ask my executive clients, “If I cleared your calendar for an entire day to free you up to be ‘more strategic,’ what would you actually do?” most have no idea. I often get a shrug and a blank stare in response. Some people assume that thinking strategically is a function of thinking up “big thoughts” or reading scholarly research on business trends. Others assume that watching TED talks or lectures by futurists will help them think more strategically.

How can we implement strategic thinking if we’re not even sure what it looks like?


Posted in Strategic thinking, Strategy, Thinking | Tagged , ,

Crowdsourced Science: Sociotechnical Epistemology in the e-Research Paradigm

Recent years have seen a surge in online collaboration between experts and amateurs on scientific research. In this article, we analyse the epistemological implications of these crowdsourced projects, with a focus on Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen science web portal. We use quantitative methods to evaluate the platform’s success in producing large volumes of observation statements and high impact scientific discoveries relative to more conventional means of data processing. Through empirical evidence, Bayesian reasoning, and conceptual analysis, we show how information and communication technologies enhance the reliability, scalability, and connectivity of crowdsourced e-research, giving online citizen science projects powerful epistemic advantages over more traditional modes of scientific investigation. These results highlight the essential role played by technologically mediated social interaction in contemporary knowledge production. We conclude by calling for an explicitly sociotechnical turn in the philosophy of science that combines insights from statistics and logic to analyse the latest developments in scientific research.


Posted in crowdsourcing, Research, Research network | Tagged , ,

How to Do Social Science Without Data

With the death last month of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman at age 91, the intellectual world lost a thinker of rare insight and range. Because his style of work was radically different from that of most social scientists in the United States today, his passing is an occasion to consider what might be gained if more members of our profession were to follow his example.

Mr. Bauman wrote scores of books and taught for many years at the University of Leeds, in England. He became a scholar to be reckoned with relatively late in his career. A major success came in 1989, at age 64, when he published a landmark study, “Modernity and the Holocaust.” Against the widespread view that the Holocaust reflected an anti-Semitic madness that had seized civilized Germany and thrown it back into an atavistic state, Mr. Bauman described the genocide as an all-too-characteristic creature of the modern era.


Posted in Data, Social sciences, Sociology | Tagged , ,

Recovering from disasters: Social networks matter more than bottled water and batteries

Standard advice about preparing for disasters focuses on building shelters and stockpiling things like food, water and batteries. But resilience – the ability to recover from shocks, including natural disasters – comes from our connections to others, and not from physical infrastructure or disaster kits. Almost six years ago, Japan faced a paralyzing triple disaster: a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that forced 470,000 people to evacuate from more than 80 towns, villages and cities. My colleagues and I investigated how communities in the hardest-hit areas reacted to these shocks, and found that social networks – the horizontal and vertical ties that connect us to others – are our most important defense against disasters.


Posted in Networked society, Social network | Tagged ,

Emotions Are Cognitive, Not Innate

Researchers propose emotions are cognitive states which occur as a result of conscious experiences, and not innately programmed into our brains. Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, New York University Professor Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown, a professor at the City University of New York, conclude in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Read also: A higher-order theory of emotional consciousness

Posted in Cognition, Emotions | Tagged ,

What Hunter-gatherers can tell us about fundamental Human Social Networks

Long before the advent of social media, human social networks were built around sharing a much more essential commodity: food. Now, researchers reporting on the food sharing networks of two contemporary groups of hunter-gatherers in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 21 provide new insight into fundamental nature of human social organization. The new work reveals surprising similarities between the Agta of the Philippines and Mbendjele of the Republic of Congo. In both places, individuals maintain a three-tiered social network that appears to buffer them against day-to-day shortfalls in foraging returns..”Previous research has suggested that social networks across human cultures are structured in similar ways,” says Mark Dyble (@DybleMark) of University College London. “Across societies, there appear to be similar limits on the number of social relationships individuals are able to maintain, and many societies are said to have a ‘multilevel’ structure. Our work on contemporary hunter-gatherer groups sheds light on how this distinctive social structure may have benefited humans in our hunting-and-gathering past.”


Posted in Humans, Hunter-gatherer, Social network | Tagged , ,

Camp stability predicts patterns of Hunter-gatherer Cooperation

Reciprocal food-sharing is more prevalent in stable hunter-gatherer camps, shows new UCL research that sheds light on the evolutionary roots of human cooperation. The research explores patterns of food-sharing among the Agta, a population of Filipino hunter-gatherers. It finds that reciprocal food-sharing is more prevalent in stable camps (with fewer changes in membership over time); while in less stable camps individuals acquire resources by taking from others – known as ‘demand sharing’. Exploring social dynamics in the last remaining groups of present day hunter-gatherers is essential for understanding the factors that shaped the evolution of our widespread cooperation, especially with non-kin.


Posted in Cooperation, Hunter-gatherer | Tagged ,