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Profiling Machines: Mapping the Personal Information Economy

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Overview

In this book Greg Elmer brings the perspectives of cultural and media studies to the subject of consumer profiling and feedback technology in the digital economy. He examines the multiplicity of processes that monitor consumers and automatically collect, store, and cross-reference personal information. When we buy a book at Amazon.com or a kayak from L.L. Bean, our transactions are recorded,stored, and deployed to forecast our future behavior—thus we may receive solicitations to buy another book by the same author or the latest in kayaking gear.

Elmer charts this process, explaining the technologies that make it possible and examining the social and political implications.Elmer begins by establishing a theoretical framework for his discussion, proposing a "diagrammatic approach" that draws on but questions Foucault's theory of surveillance. In the second part of the book, he presents the historical background of the technology of consumer profiling,including such pre-electronic tools as the census and the warranty card, and describes the software and technology in use today for demographic mapping. In the third part, he looks at two case studies—a marketing event sponsored by Molson that was held in the Canadian Arctic (contrasting the attendees and the indigenous inhabitants) and the use of "cookies" to collect personal information on the World Wide Web, which (along with other similar technologies) automate the process of information collection and cross-referencing. Elmer concludes by considering the politics of profiling, arguing that we must begin to question our everyday electronic routines.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"An important study of how consumers are tracked and solicited in the new information economy. Drawing on Deleuze's concept of control societies, Elmer introduces a much needed update of the literature on surveillance to account for profiling and datamining technologies, and, most crucially, maps out potential spaces of resistance."—William C. Bogard, Professor of Sociology, Whitman College

"Greg Elmer has produced a lucid and concise analysis of the panoptic information society. Profiling Machines makes a very important contribution to what is now a critical agenda in contemporary cultural and political debate." Kevin Robins, Goldsmiths College, University of London

"In a world increasingly networked, automated, and invisibly connected,Greg Elmer's Profiling Machines is a health alert, a political prophecy, and an ethical challenge. Forget the surveillance state: data mining,cookies, and personal profiling are the tools of increasingly powerful global commercial corporations. Somehow we always thought the Web would combine anonymity with the right to become truly individual. Elmer shows how the erosion of anonymity has turned us into economic and lifestyle data sets, traded without our even knowing it. Thoroughly researched, passionately argued, this is a bracing account of the ethics, aesthetics, and likely futures of the web that should be read by everyone who has ever surfed, as well as every student of public relations and marketing." Sean Cubitt, Professor of Screen and Media Studies, University of Waikato, New Zealand

"Technological, market and regulatory changes have brought about a dramatic remapping of the world's media space. In Media and Sovereignty, Monroe Price makes an important and illuminating contribution to thinking through the implications of this media shift, for states and for other national and transnational interest groups. This is a very timely book, and will be of considerable interest to all who are concerned with media culture and policy in global times."—Kevin Robins, Goldsmiths College, University of LondonPlease note: Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote.

"In a world increasingly networked, automated and invisibly connected,Greg Elmer's *Profiling Machines* is a health alert, a political prophecy and an ethical challenge. Forget the surveillance state: data mining, cookies, and personal profiling are the tools of increasingly powerful global commercial corporations.

Somehow we always thought the web would combine anonymity with the right to become truly individual. Elmer shows how the erosion of anonymity has turned us into economic and lifestyle data sets, traded without our even knowing it. Thoroughly researched, passionately argued, this is a bracing account of the ethics,aesthetics, and likely futures of the web that should be read by everyone who has ever surfed, as well as every student of public relations and marketing."—Sean Cubitt, Professor of Screen and Media Studies, University of Waikato, New ZealandPlease note: Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote in promotional pieces, but quote should remain complete on book jacket.

"Greg Elmer has produced a lucid and concise analysis of the panoptic information society. *Profiling Machines* makes a very important contribution to what is now a critical agenda in contemporary cultural and political debate."—Kevin Robins, Goldsmiths College, University of London

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262050739
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Greg Elmer is Associate Professor of Communications at Florida State University.

He is the editor of Critical Perspectives on the Internet and co-editor of the journal Space and Culture.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Culture and Technologies of Profiling 2
2 A Diagram of Panoptic Surveillance 28
3 Consumption in the Network Age: Solicitation, Automation, and Networking 52
4 Mapping Profiles 72
5 Deploying Profiles in Promotional Events 90
6 The "State" of a Panoptic Medium 110
7 The Politics of Profiling 132
Notes 147
Bibliography 153
Index 169
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2004

    Packed With Knowledge!

    Greg Elmer pulls the veil off the universal practice of consumer profiling and data-collection, and demonstrates its deep societal influence. Daily, when you swipe a credit card or buy a magazine or go online, your personal habits are monitored ¿ and someone will use that information to make a buck. Both in terms of its topic and its treatment, this book should be too theoretical to hold much interest for the business public. Who cares about communications theory as applied to the continual mapping of personal consumer information? However, you can't push this into a dusty corner, because the subtle cultural effect of the increasingly close monitoring and data mining of consumer behavior is too powerful to overlook. While the book has a slightly dry, academic direction, we still strongly recommend it to those who are curious whether the juggernaut economic machine will steamroll over the privacy rights of those who use and feed it.

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