We are pleased to put online the next in our ‘The New in Social Research’ series, a recording of Evelyn Ruppert’s lecture titled ‘Doing the Transparent State: Methods and their Subjectifying Effects/Affects’ (Feb 28th).
Building on themes explored in the previous talk by Fuller and Harwood, Ruppert looked at the effects (and affects) of the UK government’s data ‘Transparency Agenda’, insisting on the generative capacities of this device. This includes the release of detailed data, via publically accessible, comparatively easy-to-use online platforms (e.g. government produced data apps), ranging from details of MPs expenses to itemised lists of departmental spending. This data, in turn, can be – and increasingly is – downloaded, manipulated and mediated by organisations and institutions, whether by journalists looking to produce eye catching visualisations , or companies hoping to unearth market value hidden in the relations between and amongst different data sets.
A key argument was that Transparency and Open Data arrangements anticipate the moral failure of government: they enrol people as vigilant subjects monitoring such potential failures. This mode of government/public engagement, Ruppert argues, calls forth certain kinds of witnessing public, the production of what she termed (uncertain, hypervigilant) ‘data subjects’. This mode of witnessing implies a reorientation of both the responsibilities of political subjects and the medium for political action. Increasingly, responsibility for detecting moral, political failure is relocated away from the business of politics itself and onto a public charged with monitoring, sifting, detecting, calling attention to potential government failings lurking in the depths of the data, but also rendering subjects complicit in this ultimately passive mode of governance by transparency.
To hear more, including Ruppert’s reflections on whether or not this mode of witnessing can be considered ‘new’ (a key question given the aims of this series), download the recording below.
Recording (to be downloaded; these are not designed to stream)