“You Are Being Tracked” by Devon Balwit

Devon Balwit


as you read this poem. At the end
you will be given a productivity score,
the measure of how deeply you engaged
with the content. Did your gaze rest
on the clever line breaks? Did you
notice the assonance, the consonance?
Did you have more than one tab
open at a time? Did you skim?
The camera [please uncover it]
will take pictures of your face at intervals
so the program can evaluate
your emotive response—is there more
disdain than appreciation? Is there
jealousy? You will see how your score compares
with that of other readers. Upon finishing, you
will be directed to the poet’s homepage,
where the best readers know
how to show love. Be aware
that any complaints or evidence
of non-compliance will prohibit you
from future involvement with this site.

from Poets Respond
August 23, 2022


Devon Balwit: “Both this week’s New York Review of Books and today’s New York Times contained scary stories of how workers are being surveilled at work—not just Amazon or UBER workers, but office workers and so-called professionals. This goes way beyond what websites they are visiting or how quickly they are keyboarding—eye motion, taking photos of their faces and posting them to the team, paying them based on some opaque productivity algorithm rather than a set salary. I read the NYRB article through, but abandoned the Times article when it told me that as I was reading, this type of software would be running, and I would receive my own productivity score at the end. This made me think of what it would be like to read poetry under such conditions.” (web)

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