Sami Coll

Dr Sami Coll was a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. He began his career as an engineer in computer science before changing his professional orientation to Sociology. He defended his PhD in Sociology at the University of Geneva in 2010 and spent one year as a postdoctoral fellow at the City University of New York before joining the Surveillance Studies Centre in April 2011.

In his PhD research, he focused on consumer surveillance and loyalty cards (also known as consumer cards, club cards, rewards cards, points cards, savings cards or advantage cards). The main idea was to study consumption as a new form of social control which tries to govern people in a subtle and soft way, providing rewards for compliance rather than threats of potential punishment for non-compliance. Thus, he focused on subtle forms of surveillance, which are not felt as such by citizens/users/consumers, rather than its explicit forms (e.g. CCTV), where visibility is on the contrary meant to change people’s behaviour. The research also empirically challenged the notion of privacy, considering it as inefficient or even as becoming a part of surveillance. Finally, he argued that consumer surveillance can be seen in many ways as biopower, particularly when governments become interested in the data collected by companies to govern their bodies, e.g. trying to fight against obesity.

Alongside working on the publication of the results of his last research, he is preparing new research on social networks. This new project objective seeks to go beyond the usual surveillance-privacy antagonism and to study how the enhanced and wanted transparency of the subject affects social interactions, life chances and social structures.