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Learning Like a State: Statecraft in the Digital Age

  • Author(s): Fourcade, Marion
  • Gordon, Jeffrey
  • et al.
Abstract

What does it mean to sense, see, and act like a state in the digital age? We examine the changing phenomenology, governance, and capacity of the state in the era of big data and machine learning. Our argument is threefold. First, what we call the dataist state may be less accountable than its predecessor, despite its promise of enhanced transparency and accessibility. Second, a rapid expansion of the data collection mandate is fueling a transformation in political rationality, in which data affordances increasingly drive policy strategies. Third, the turn to dataist statecraft facilitates a corporate reconstruction of the state. On the one hand, digital firms attempt to access and capitalize on data “minted” by the state. On the other hand, firms compete with the state in an effort to reinvent traditional public functions. Finally, we explore what it would mean for this dataist state to “see like a citizen” instead.

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