The Departures Modern Glossary September 2012

Bendik Kaltenborn

The terms that define us now.


A form of surveillance that entails the collecting of (usually digital) data relating to a specific person.

“Dataveillance” has the smell of a newly minted word, perhaps cooked up by Internet anarchists on an all-night binge, imbibing illegal substances and conspiracy theories. Yet, as is often the case with technology terms, the word is, in fact, older than most people using the Internet—the first citation for “dataveillance” in the Oxford English Dictionary dates back to 1972.


An automated Internet program, especially one created for the purpose of collecting information.

“Bot” is a marvelous multiuse suffix capable of attaching itself to almost any word that comes along. We have “spambots,” “cancelbots,” “spybots,” “annoybots” and doubtless more being created all the time. A shortened form of “robot,” “bot” as a suffix denoting something automated began to be used in the late 1950s and was first applied to Internet programs in the ’80s.


A “spam blog”; a blog featuring nonsensical or plagiarized content, created for the sole purpose of driving up page views and ad revenue.

“Splog” is a blend of two blended words, giving it not only parents but grandparents: It’s from “spam,” a combination of “spiced” and “ham,” and “blog,” from “web” and “log.” Although “blogger” has undergone a process of amelioration (a fancy linguistics term meaning “a word isn’t as negative as it used to be”), it seems unlikely anyone will ever proudly refer to him- or herself as a splogger.


The symbol #, followed by a word or expression; a means of indicating the topic of posts on social-media networks.

That odd phone button, the #, has different names: Americans press “pound”; the British call it the “hash key”; and a few oddballs know it as the “octothorpe.” It’s unclear why “hash” won out in this context, but “hashtag activism” (sedentary protest via Twitter) has a nice ring to it, while “poundtag activism” sounds rather aberrant and “octothorpe activism” like an unpleasant rash.


Paparazzi who collect information on celebrities by illicitly accessing their computers or phones.

A blend of “hacker” and “paparazzi” (after the photographer named Paparazzo in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita), “hackerazzi” was first used by the FBI. While the government agency is not usually noted for its word-coining prowess, its 2011 sting mission, Operation Hackerazzi, spawned a neologism with potential for longevity.