Session Two – Liz McFall (OU), Jonathan Gray (Bath) and Frank Pasquale (Maryland)
This event was organised by the Technology and Democracy research project and brought historical and contemporary perspectives to bear on the question of how the public interest is to be determined in a world increasingly under the rule of number, data and quantification.
Will Davies (Goldsmiths)
Glen O'Hara (Oxford Brookes)
Liz McFall (OU)
Jonathan Gray (Bath)
Frank Pasquale (Maryland)
Collecting information about the public has often caused controversy, but it has usually been understood as a form of exchange. As this information takes increasingly numerical form, the nature of this quid pro quo – who gets what from the exchange – has become more and more opaque. Who has the right to collect and organise public information, to control access to it now and into the future?
As a greater number of private entities accumulate statistical information, this workshop investigated the shifting boundary of the public and the private spheres. We asked how the processes of counting and enumerating people have helped to produce specific political forms of government and economic forms of business. And specifically, we examined the ways in which claims of a public interest have been used to justify the collection of such information, from censuses to digital data trails.
Panellists, speakers and respondents approached the question using case studies from the history of insurance and medical surveillance, neoliberalism and official statistics, as well as electoral political strategies.