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[liberationtech] Michel Anteby, Being Seen and Going Unnoticed: Working under Surveillance

Yosem Companys companys at
Mon Oct 15 18:54:55 PDT 2012

*Center for Work, Technology, and Organization
Colloquium Series 2012-2013 *

*October 22, 2012*

*Speaker*: Michel
Business School)
*Title*: Being Seen and Going Unnoticed: Working under Surveillance
*Time & Location*: 12-1:30 PM in NANO 232
Since the advent of industrialization, controlling the workforce has been a
recurring concern in organizations. Surveillance has increasingly been
viewed as a crucial solution to this concern and new technologies have
greatly facilitated the degree to which surveillance can be carried out.
Yet research on how employees experience such intensified surveillance is
sparse. This article, drawing on an interview-based study of U.S.
Transportation Security Administration employees at a large urban airport,
examines what it means for individuals to work under surveillance. We first
identify an apparent contradiction: the coexistence of employee visibility
and invisibility to management. Despite being constantly seen, most
employees reported going unnoticed by management. The main explanation for
this contradiction is that employees distinguished the visibility of their
behavior from that of their selfhood. While their behavior was visible to
management, employees felt that their selves remained largely invisible.
Furthermore, visibility and invisibility were not solely imposed by
management but also actively mobilized by employees to overcome
surveillance. In fact, to deal with surveillance, employees mobilized
strategies of invisibility and visibility involving both their behavior and
their selfhood. Thus invisibility should be conceptualized as both a
problem and a resource for employees. We discuss the implications of this
proposition for theories of surveillance and control.
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