I see you like memes? The business of digital surveillance and propaganda

Whether you’re handling your digital business or just scrolling for the lulz, every moment you're online could be commodified twice over: while advertisers and propagandists purchase shards of your attention, the surveillance industry simultaneously extracts a constellation of data points about who you are and exactly what you're doing. 

Many people believe these processes converge when all that data is used to microtarget and more effectively persuade you. But, Ethan explains in this talk that the truth is much more bizarre. 

Some messages are targeted at us to drum up business or anger, belief or doubt. But some messages are generated by one algorithm to trick another algorithm - without regard for the human audiences caught between. Likewise, your personal data could be used immediately to develop artificial intelligence, or that data could sit idle for years, awaiting unlikely uses of which the governments and corporations that surveil us haven't yet even dreamt. 


Dr Ethan Plaut is a lecturer in Media & Communication at the University of Auckland specialising in computational media, disconnection and communication avoidance, digital journalism and propaganda, and media ethics. He previously held postdoctoral fellowships in both Computer Science and Rhetoric at Stanford University and is also a former journalist, which included spending three years at an independent newspaper in Cambodia.

8:00pm @Bamboo Tiger*, 335 Karangahape Road, Auckland 1010

*Please note that the venue has had a change of name from Shanghai Lil’s to Bamboo Tiger but remains at the same address.

Also speaking at this location at 6:30pm is Benedikt Fischer.