Digital surveillance as maternal: selling baby monitors in the UK and US

Authors: Emma Waight*, Coventry University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Marketing Geography
Keywords: maternal, parenting, cultural geography, posthumanism, surveillance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper presents exploratory research on how markets are colonising the maternal-infant relation through baby monitors and child tracking devices. Both technologies are marketed as helping parents, and especially the maternal, to secure their child’s safety. The presumption is both that danger is a perennial condition of infancy and childhood and that the maternal is insufficient to mediate such danger. I begin with a content analysis of three companies (Infant Optics, Nanit and Philips Advent) that sell these devices in the UK and the US, analysing both the language and rhetoric of the product marketing as well as customer reviews. In so doing, I show how surveillance is promoted as a benign and, even, positive form of care-giving that stands in for maternal lack. Lastly, I discuss how the surveilled child, in particular, is relating to tracking technology. The work raises questions about how market-driven surveillance and tracking technologies work to fragment the (dyadic relationality of the) maternal by casting doubt on its ability to provide care.

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