“Mutual flourishing” and the “Common Good” are now in common parlance – but how is this negotiated ambition of everyone’s flourishing being shaped by our ‘surveillance culture’ – a culture of collecting and analyzing vast volumes of personal data via social media, web activity, phone apps, and store loyalty cards.
In The Common Gaze, I consider whether this surveillance culture, which so often focuses disproportionately on the already-marginalised or disadvantaged, can be redeemed and restored in line with God’s intentions for human flourishing. Provocative and timely, the book dares to suggest that in contrast to the prevailing sense that surveillance must always be viewed in the negative, in a redeemed state it might in fact play a part in God’s purpose for the world.
From the publisher’s website:
Our political spheres are riven with micro-targeted political advertising that degrades the possibilities and incentive for shared, respectful debate. We are producers as well as consumers of data when we record our physical, and sometimes our spiritual, exercise on smartphone apps. The algorithms which identify us, granting us access to state and corporate provision, are not objective but often deeply discriminatory against people of colour and those lower on socio-economic scales.
Offering a ground-breaking new perspective on one of the great concerns of our time, Eric Stoddart examines everyday surveillance in the light of concern for the common good. He reveals the urgent need to challenge data gathering and analysis that weakens the social fabric by dividing people into categories largely based on inferred characteristics, and interprets surveillance in relation to God’s preferential option for those who are poor. The Common Gaze is a call not only for revised surveillance but for better ways of understanding how God sees.