requiem for certainty

Archive for September 2015

the algorithm & the watchtower

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I have a new piece out today in the wonderfully smart space curated by the good people at ‘The New Inquiry.’  My piece is titled ‘The Algorithm and the Watchtower‘ and in it I suggest that when it comes to the politics of information we are too easily distracted by visual metaphors of surveillance, watching, and all-seeing gazes.  The politics of information is not pan-optic, I argue, but rather pan-analytic.  It depends less on total visuality and more on massive harvesting, gargantuan storage capacity, and the super-complex calculative rationality we like to call ‘Big Data.’  This piece follows on from my essay in the ‘New York Times’ last year titled ‘The Age of Infopolitics‘.  Both are part of an ongoing book project involving concept work on the politics of data as well as empirical inquiry into the genealogy of how we have become what I like to call “informational persons”.

The book is framed as a genealogy of our cybernetic contemporary and looks into the pre-history of the grandiose vision of universal information first laid out by Norbert Wiener in his 1948 book Cybernetics.  That pre-history, as I tell it, involves an array of informational technologies and techno-practices through which it became obligatory for the modern subject to present itself: this includes obvious devices like government-issued identification cards but also less obvious data production mechanisms like the pencil-and-paper tests of personality assessment, ideas of perfect translatability central to then-raging ideas for universal languages, and the datafication of a welter of social categories.

Check out the new piece at:

Written by Colin Koopman

September 29, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized