Databases and Doppelgängers: New articulations of power
This article explores the power and efficacy of databases as part of the turn to intensive datafication in contemporary life in which we are all enfolded within a datafied milieu: a catalogued and curated data assemblage comprising aspects of our life. This assemblage of people, processes, and things is described as having a generative power—data power—producing not the “one” profiled individual, but the many multiple proxies out of the data assemblage. I reimagine the profiled individual through the literary figure of the doppelgänger: a data doppelgänger that gestures to difference and repetition and all that is ambiguously changeable within digital culture. Thinking with the data doppelgänger to interrogate the profiling apparatus enables a more complex understanding of data power beyond panoptic metaphors that ground the subject in descriptive and spectral terms rather than performative simulations. To illustrate aspects of the contemporary profiling apparatus, I briefly explore the troubling relationship between Facebook and the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to demonstrate how effective profiling systems are when enriched with large, social datasets.
Robinson, S. (2018). Databases and Doppelgängers: New articulations of power. Configurations, 26(4), 411–440. doi:10.1353/con.2018.0035