Personalisation, Power and the Datafied Subject

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This chapter draws upon Foucauldian ideas, to explore how the ‘datafication’ of modern life might shift the modes of power acting within the social body. At its essence the chapter argues that the construction of the data-self marks a shift in modes of power, revitalising a governmentality centred simultaneously upon intimate knowledge of the individual (subjectivities) and the population, one characterised by corporate rather than state-based forms of government power. Significantly, such personalisation migrates responsibility for ‘correct’ forms of action or behaviour from the relation between the free (and potentially rebellious) individual and the state to a more closely monitored and constantly intervening type of ‘private oversight’.
Through a brief exploration of three banal everyday social practices (driving, health, gambling) that triangulate on the intersection between technology, data and subjectivation (the process by which one becomes a subject), the intent is to reveal some of the ways a ‘neoliberal subject’ is produced, or more accurately how certain forms of subjectivity are inculcated and internalised by individuals. In their ‘everydayness’ such data personalisation technologies reproduce discourses of neoliberalism; atomised, responsibilised, monitored, rational actors empowered through consumption, responsive to the demands of capital, and where the locus of capacity to govern increasingly sits with private capital while the state and the notion of the social body is eroded. Self-evidently there is a normative critique at the heart of this analysis. However, the intent is to reveal processes of change and their power effects rather than judge them. Through such exposure the goal is to provide some analytical purchase, drawing upon Foucauldian insights, to open up space for critical debate and reflection on a rapidly changing world increasingly constituted through algorithmic government.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationData-Driven Personalisation and the Law
EditorsUta Kohl, Jacob Eisler
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jun 2020


  • Governmentality
  • subjects
  • neoliberalism
  • data
  • algorithm
  • Gambling
  • Health
  • Power
  • biopower


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