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On phantom publics, clusters, and collectives: be(com)ing subject in algorithmic times

Petersmann, Marie and Van Den Meerssche, Dimitri (2023) On phantom publics, clusters, and collectives: be(com)ing subject in algorithmic times. AI & SOCIETY. ISSN 0951-5666

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s00146-023-01728-8


This article starts from the observation that practices of ‘algorithmic governmentality’ or ‘governance by data’ are reconfiguring modes of social relationality and collectivity. By building, first, on an empirical exploration of digital bordering practices, we qualify these emergent algorithmic categories as ‘clusters’—pulsing patterns distilled from disaggregated data. As fluid, modular, and ever-emergent forms of association, these ‘clusters’ defy stable expressions of collective representation and social recognition. Second, we observe that this empirical analysis resonates with accounts that diagnosed algorithmic governance as a threat to legal subjectivity and socio-political cohesion, and called for a reinvigoration of democratic values and their re-alignment with new ‘infrastructural publics’. Against this backdrop, however, we explore alternatives avenues of legal imagination by pushing in a different (somewhat opposite) direction. Against the re-inscription of liberal categories, we linger with the promise and prospect of illegibility as resistance against the foreclosure of future potentialities in algorithmic forms of subject-making. Instead of falling back on the projection of autonomous human agency and liberal subjectivity to counteract the ‘cluster’, we imagine emancipatory expressions of resistance that are enacted through fugitive, opaque, and experimental collectivities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2023 09:18
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2024 18:57

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