“Informatized subjects” — Gordon Hull

Gordon Hull at NewAPPS has a good discussion of data vs. information and how value is created by the turning of one into the other.

He also mentions Philip K. Dick’s influential book Ubik, since his piece is a discussion, in part, of an article by N. Katherine Hayles in TCS.

Here, I want to notice just one part of the argument: RFID tags, on her account, exist as both “devices” and “virtual presences,” negotiating this boundary by transmitting data from the world of things to the world of information.  As such (what follows is my extrapolation, not her argument, though I don’t think anything I’m saying here disagrees with her in any fundamental way), they are active participants in what one might call the “informatization” of subjectivity: treating subjectivity as primarily informatic, as the product of or constituted by information.

Nothing too new there perhaps, but there is a key implication he highlights that I think we’re really far from grappling with:

It seems to me that, insofar as RFID chips negotiate the boundary between informatics and objects, and transitions between those, they should be studied as sites for the primitive accumulation of capital.  That is, they are places where objects can become subsumed into capitalist market structures, while being dispossessed (following David Harvey’s terminology) of whatever value they might have had before. When RFID tags contribute to that process – as when, for example, they are used to produce revenue-generating metadata for large corporations by tracking consumer purchases – is when they ought to be scrutinized most carefully, and their political economy subject to the most careful critique, precisely because it is at these moments that they constitute us as subjects of global capital, or where such constitution needs to be resisted.

This has all sorts of provocative angles, not least how geolocational data and geolocational subjects get “informatized” and valorized.


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