It is my pleasure to introduce this symposium on Colin Koopman’s important book. As the effects of the corporate use of data and the age of “surveillance capitalism” (Shoshana Zuboff) becomes more and more explored within our world, Koopman’s book is a particularly welcome one to the extent that it locates this notion of data in genealogical terms, showing how its precursors stretch back beyond where its origins are oftentimes located.
This is a useful procedure to the extent that it allows us to situate and anchor these questions in broader discussions that emerge in modernity. Where it is common to conceive the various problems raised by big data and by us becoming understood chiefly in terms of data, How We Became Our Data shows how these discussions in fact connect to earlier movements in modernity around conceptions of subjectivity and agency, around the emergence of racial thinking, and around discourses of power and sovereignty. Of course, none of these multifaceted discourses have been absent, but it is incredibly useful to have them unified in the genealogical procedure that Koopman undertakes in this book. Framing things in this way also allows Koopman to develop a notion of infopower, which is meant to be located amidst other (Foucault-inspired) discourses of power.
In what follows you will read responses by Dan Smith, Jen Forestal, Corey McCall, and Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson.