The Ambiguities of Surveillance as Care and Control: Struggles in the domestication of location-tracking applications by Danish parents

Sarah Widmer, Anders Albrechtslund

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Abstract

The implicit ambiguity of surveillance as both control and care has been a key theoretical issue in social science research on surveillance practices and technologies. This article addresses this ambiguity empirically, by examining how parents using – or not using – location-tracking applications to monitor their children negotiate this tension. Drawing on 17 semi-structured interviews conducted with parents in different regions of Denmark, this article examines the struggles of these parents to fit this technology into their world and to reconcile their uses with ideals of trust, privacy and good parenting. By highlighting how users and non-users perceive and negotiate the controlling affordances of tracking apps, this article emphasises the potential for negotiation, contestation and resistance raised by this technology, and the contingent nature of its appropriation and effects. Thereby, it brings nuances to techno-pessimistic accounts of child tracking and calls for further empirical studies examining how these technologies are experienced in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordicom Review
Volume42
IssueS4
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages14
ISSN1403-1108
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Keywords

  • child tracking
  • family
  • location tracking
  • surveillance
  • user studies

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