Scopic Valuations: How Digital Tracking Technologies Shape Economic Value

Alexander Dobeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


How do market actors in the contemporary economy make decisions when they are uncertain of the value of what is being traded? To answer this question, this paper analyses the changing temporal and spatial orientation of economic valuations in increasingly digitalized economies, in which markets can no longer be understood as locally bound and closed sites of valuation and exchange. Drawing on ethnographic material from the fishing industry, the paper shows how digital tracking technologies link and synchronize auction markets with real-time information on fishing activities. Hence, ‘scopic media’ such as chart plotters and computer screens are not only deployed by skippers to monitor one another, but are also used as valuation devices that recontextualize local knowledge for the purpose of coping with economic uncertainty. As a consequence of this panoptic valuation regime, fishermen control their virtual identities by disciplining harvesting practices according to their buyers’ expectations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)454-478
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Valuation
  • Uncertainty
  • Markets
  • Digital technology
  • Scopic media
  • Economization

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