Doing Data, Computational Culture and the Machinery of Governing
Not only etymologically “state” and “statistics” are connected. When “political arithmetic” was introduced in England around 1676 and “Statistik” in Prussia around 1749, it was a science of the state. With demographics, public health and crime statistics questions were of regulation became deeply linked to technoscientific reasoning. Since then Data is the blood that circulates through the modern body politic: The development, implementation, and tinkering of methods and practices of data gathering, storing and processing turned governing into a computational endeavor.
The last decade however has seen the rise of data science that moved data driven applications to the core of a new scientific field. Today data comes from many sources, in messy forms, is widely distributed physically and legally and used for various purposes and by various agencies. But not only do new actors and new forms of expertise challenge well-adjusted procedures of regulation and control. What is at stake are the implicit, explicit and implemented categories and models that govern who and what is governed, how to know and access who and what is governed and who or what should and can be the agent and the object of governing. Given the interwoven history of the state and statistics, the turn to data science has the potential to reassemble the machinery of governing.
“Upgrade” is the tentative title of my recent book project focusing on the link between those new and transformed ways of doing data, the new role of computing (and those who do computing, namely: mathematicians, IT engineers and data scientists) and prototypical – or beta stage – developments for a new machinery of governing. The project investigates how the changes in lmethods and practices of data gathering, storage and processing that are linked to the rise of data science are rearranging the models and the daily work of governing; it will also look at if and how in reverse the methods and practices of data science are changed. If the infrastructure of governing counts on and with the practices of rationality of statistics, what happens when those change?