Digital Subjectivation and Financial Markets: Criticizing Social Studies of Finance with Lazzarato

Big Data and Society 3 (2):1-15 (2016)
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The recently rising field of Critical Data Studies is still facing fundamental questions. Among these is the enigma of digital subjectivation. Who are the subjects of Big Data? A field where this question is particularly pressing is finance. Since the 1990s traders have been steadily integrated into computerized data assemblages, which calls for an ontology that eliminates the distinction between human sovereign subjects and non-human instrumental objects. The latter subjectivize traders in pre-conscious ways, because human consciousness runs too slow to follow the volatility of the market. In response to this conundrum Social Studies of Finance has drawn on Actor-Network Theory to interpret financial markets as technically constructed networks of human and non-human actors. I argue that in order to develop an explicitly critical data study it might be advantageous to refer to Maurizio Lazzarato’s theory of machinic subjugation instead. Although both accounts describe financial digital subjectivation similarly, Lazzarato has the advantage of coupling his description to a clear critique of and resistance to finance.

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Tim Christiaens
Tilburg University


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