Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Beer, David. “A History of the Data Present.” History of the Human Sciences, (October 2020). https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695120959254.

How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

Colin Koopman, How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person. Chicago, ILUniversity of Chicago Press2019. 269 pp. ISBN: 9780226626581

Watching TV I start to wonder if I should be more mindful of my credit score. Am I neglecting my own future? Am I risking the viability of my ‘data shadow’? Am I not being attentive enough to my data? The often repeated advert suggests to me that my credit score – as a representation of my riskiness and worthiness – is something that I should be spending time tracking, monitoring, and maintaining. The implication is that I should actively learn how to manage this metric in order to maximise the opportunities presented to me by the capitalist structures of credit and debt with which I am confronted.

We are never too far from a reminder that we have, as Koopman’s (2019) revealing new book suggests, become our data. It is hard not to get trapped in the glare of the shiny devices and predictive systems that present our data back to us. Momentarily a new development gives us a fleeting glimpse into just how powerful data have become. A data leak, for instance, or maybe a flash crash, or perhaps a misjudged roll-out of an overly surveillant new product or service: these give us little moments of insight into the power of the data acting upon us. Such moments provide only fleeting glimpses before the data formations become familiar and return to the background of social life. As a result, things like credit score self-monitoring become something that is hardly even noticed, let alone questioned. Koopman’s answer is to look backwards in order to get a new perspective on the role of data in the present.

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