Theses Doctoral

Sound and Surveillance: The Making of the Neoliberal Ear

Amsellem, Audrey

This dissertation is on sonic surveillance in the neoliberal context and its implication for privacy, agency, sovereignty, ownership and control. This research focuses on the social, political and ethical conceptions of privacy through musical consumption and sonic practices in the United States. I investigate non-creative recording practices in neoliberal life and identify the listening practices of surveillance capitalism to better understand how power circulates through sound.

Through a multi-sited ethnography, I conduct three case studies on the recording and listening capacity of technological devices of everyday life in order to theorize what I term “the neoliberal ear”– a twenty-first century mode of listening to the world embedded into surveillance capitalism. I analyze three sonic tools of surveillance capitalism: streaming service Spotify, Smart Home device Amazon Echo, and Smart City communication hub LinkNYC. These technologies, I argue, embody and promote neoliberal ideology, and the companies that produces them operate within a neoliberal mode of governance allowed by public policies.

This dissertation is interdisciplinary in scope and operates at theoretical crossings of sound and power, technology and cultural practices, and disciplinary crossings of music, law and computer science. I draw from, and build connections between; sound studies, ethnomusicology, legal literature and scholarship on copyright and privacy, surveillance studies, science and technology studies, and discourses on AI and ethics, to form theories of sound and power in surveillance capitalism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fox, Aaron Andrew
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 25, 2022