Databases and Doppelgängers: New articulations of power
Configurations , Volume 26 - Issue 4 p. 411- 440
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.