Politics of Data – Between Post-Democracy and Commons

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The presentation at the conference Data Traces was in German, hence also the slides. Below is unedited live written english translation created by Felix Gerloff. It's a impressive on-the-spot summary, but don't parse words.

Felix Stalder: "Politics of Data – Between Post-Democracy and Commons"

– culture as "trade floor" of meaning / interpretation
– topic: how the structure of theses processes of debating meaning in culture changed
– significant change today: big data sets instead of small data
– the quantitative change quickly becomes a qualitative change, because it needs different approaches to deal with big data

– he not necessarily means automated data that is often discussed in the context but cultural items/products more
– more people nowadays participate in cultural production and the normalization of handling big amounts of data –> an imperative of dealing with and producing large amounts of data

– Why are more people involved in that today?

    – historical transformation processes in work structures, society and geo-politics
    – change of work culture: higher expectation in regard of communicativeness, expressiveness etc. towards workers
    – societal change: possibilities of articulation extended / more participation on societal meaning making

– expansion of the concept of "design" / everything can be seen as design today

    – design means dealing with options / debating possibilities/options for action
    – more and more (political/societal) questions are asked for decision and negotiating options / questions that earlier were regarded as fate or myths

– the expansion of "questions of culture" leads to an "explosion of communication"
– every question that is relevant for the "everyday life" is discussed in a sphere beyond the "private" realm
– relatively late to this development the technical infrastructures for this mass communication/negotiation appear/co-develop (since the 2000s as a dominant phenomena)
– showing a glimpse of this production of data ("The Internet in Real-Time")

    – all are acts of meaningful expressions
    – the "like" as the minimal / most granular act of value decisions / "from my perspective in this moment this is important"
    – from there a spectrum of growing "efforts" of articulation post > article > book/movie e.g.

– this developments lead to a crisis of former institutions that are focussed/limited on small data sets and a top-down direction of meaning making

    – they spoke from a position of an overview, e.g. a canons in art or literature
    – expert view
    – the position of overview is non-personal by nature

– since the 1960s growing critique on these institutions

    – questioning the canon of art / male domination in art canon e.g.

– the new technical infrastructure allows for the establishment of new institutions

    – which goes beyond critique of institutions into creating alternatives

– refers back to the visualization of internet activity

    – again, shows the effort of people who decide to post/like/get an account etc.

– "weak" social networks
– new "communities of practice" (groups based on common interest, common evaluating of something, like sharing cat images)
– Political challenges for the institutions
– opinion making and decision making beyond (institutional) representation

Strategy 1: "decoupling"

– everybody can debate/participate but few can make decisions
– example: privacy in social mass media / Facebook developers decide about the structure of social norms incorporated in their service/platform with no direct possibility for its users to participate in that
– structural decoupling of social layers of decision making based on the fact that the necessary data is secret and/or proprietary

These systems are…

– post-democratic
– post-hegemonial
– post-cultural: no interest in meaning making
– these processes not limited to the "Internet"

    – this decoupling, which has its most obvious realization in social networks can also be seen in other social processes/political negotiations

Strategy 2: "absorption" / "commoning"

– borders are not fixed producer/consument / economy/society
– encompassing/comprehensive institutions, focussed on consensus and complex "calculus"
– "commons"

    – common/collective-democratic
    – "hegemonial"
    – comprehensive-cultural

– Not restricted to the Internt: example: "kickstarter" for saving greece

Discussion:

– Jutta Weber:

– expand the destabilization of "objectivity" to epistemes / changes in science (much earlier than discussed here)

– Felix:

– the presentation is very schematic of course
– this processes go further back of course (e.g. problems of data already in the census in the late 19th century)

Do you see a loss of value(s) in these processes? What is the connection to the time frame of decision making? Is this a chance or danger for democracy?

Felix:
– values, who's values? where did the "common" values come from? repressive consensus, bourgeois values
– these structural changes are beyond personal control / the first strategy may be more dominant currently

– Christiane Heibach:
– the collection of big data seems to afford basically a dictatorial/totalitarian system / this seems to by prominent in the first strategy of decoupling, too
– post-economic was missing / is the economic the new basis of these processes

Felix:
– disagrees with the question of totalitarianism of data