requiem for certainty

Infopolitics piece in the New York Times

with 5 comments

My short opinion piece on infopolitics in the New York Times is just out.  In it I discuss ideas at the center of my current book project.  The focus is on how information became the political morass that it is today.  A big part of the story has to do with how we all became the informational morasses that we are today.  I call these two parts of the story ‘informational politics’ and ‘informational persons’.

The broader project is a ‘history of the present’ of our contemporary zero-moment of dragnet surveillance, big data analytics, and other intersections of information and politics in which we are finding ourselves. The historical part of the project traces a genealogy of where we find ourselves today back to the late nineteenth century.  The image here is one of umpteen emblems for the project: Emma Goldman’s 1893 mug shot: her crime was “anarchism” for which she spent two weeks in Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia.  Other emblems might include: Francis Galton’s bertillon (or anthropometry) record, the fingerprint records of Sir William Herschel, Herman Hollerith’s tabulating machine which was used to produce the first computer (or at least proto-computer) tabulated census in 1890, or future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis’s co-authored 1890 article on what we would later come to call ‘information privacy’.

Please spread the word on the NYT article (and if you feel moved to leave a comment please do so as that would help if I approach them in the future with another piece).

See the post below for a recent recording of a lecture I gave on this topic.

Written by Colin Koopman

January 27, 2014 at 2:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Well, Colin, if this is your current project than you totally need to start coming to Theorizing the Web, especially if you are doing long histories of the information age. They’re all Foucaultians and DeLandians too. I’ve talked with one of the other historians who is a TtW regular and he considers it one of his missions to counter the presentist tendency that predominates there. I think a longer perspective is very needful here. Most of our current informational artifacts and quandaries have very long histories. It’s going to be in a non-academic space in Brooklyn this year. If nothing else, you should follow the Cyborgology community. It’s a great nexus of advanced, upcoming thinking on these issues.

    Donald Taylor II

    January 27, 2014 at 3:21 am

    • Hey Donald. Thanks for this. I’ve been following the TtW stuff since it started but at a distance. Timing hasn’t worked out yet, but I’d love to be able to go out there and check it out at some point. … Hope all is going well on your end!

      Colin Koopman

      January 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm

  2. BTW, did you see that Evgeny Morozov appreciates your author photograph?

    Donald Taylor II

    January 27, 2014 at 3:37 am

  3. EFF shout-out from @eff: “Recommended reading: a fascinating op-ed on the history of the politics of personal data from the @NYTimes.

    Colin Koopman

    January 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm

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