Surveillance paternalism

At a conference in Norway last week I learned new word coined by Tore Burheim, IT Director at Bergen University: overvåkningsomsorg. It’s a variation of Shoshana Zuboff’s brilliant word, overvåkningskapitalism, surveillance capitalism.

There is no perfect translation into English: omsorg is care, so the direct translation would be surveillance care, but that doesn’t quite work. Health care is “taking care of health”. Surveillance care would be “taking care of surveillance”. That’s not what is meant. Overvåkningsomsorg is the use of surveillance for ostensibly benevolent reaons, it is surveillance-for-care: A Huxleyan or Benthamian society where the system puts you under surveillance because it cares for you. Where Zuboff’s dystopia is easy to dislike (who likes surveillance? who actually likes capitalism?), overvåkningsomsorg is a delicious oxymoron.

I propose surveillance paternalism as the English translation, even though it’s not perfect. (“Paternalism” is not as warm as “care”.) Surveillance benevolence? “The age of benevolent surveillance”?) Danish overvågningsomsorg and Swedish övervakningsomsorg, are easy. For German, I propose Überwachungsfürsorge or maybe even Überwachungsbarmherzigkeit or something like Wohlfahrtsüberwachung.

Anyway, great word and great book title. Somebody should write this.

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