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Colin Koopman - How We Became Our Data – A Genealogy of the Informational Person

What is the story behind data coming to matter so much to who we are? We are now suddenly aware how much data matters to how we live. How did information come to be so integral to what we can do? How did we become people who effortlessly present our lives in social media profiles and who are meticulously recorded in state surveillance dossiers and online marketing databases?
In How We Became Our Data, Colin Koopman excavates early moments of our rapidly accelerating data-tracking technologies and their consequences for how we think of and express our selfhood today. Koopman explores the emergence of mass-scale record keeping systems like birth certificates and social security numbers, as well as new data techniques for categorizing personality traits, measuring intelligence, and even racializing subjects. This all culminates in what Koopman calls the “informational person” and the “informational power” we are now subject to. The recent explosion of digital technologies that are turning us into a series of algorithmic data points is shown to have a deeper and more turbulent past than we commonly think. Blending philosophy, history, political theory, and media theory in conversation with thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Friedrich Kittler, Koopman presents an illuminating perspective on how we have come to think of our personhood—and how we can resist its erosion.

Colin Koopman is associate professor of philosophy and director of the New Media & Culture Program at the University of Oregon.

Paperback, published in 2019, 272 pages, 19 illustrations.

Table of Contents:


Introduction: Informational Persons and Our Information Politics

Part I: Histories of Information

1. Inputs

“Human Bookkeeping”: The Informatics of Documentary Identity, 1913–1937

2. Processes

Algorithmic Personality: The Informatics of Psychological Traits, 1917–1937

3. Outputs

Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937

Part II: Powers of Formatting

4. Diagnostics

Toward a Political Theory for Informational Persons

5. Redesign

Data’s Turbulent Pasts and Future Paths
List of Figures
Publisher: Chicago University Press / ISBN: 9780226626581
Medium: Book


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