Governing, Exchanging, Securing: Big Data and the Production of Digital Knowledge

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University; Columbia University

May 23, 2014

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-390

The emergence of Big Data challenges the conventional boundaries between governing, exchange, and security. It ambiguates the lines between commerce and surveillance, between governing and exchanging, between democracy and the police state. The new digital knowledge reproduces consuming subjects who wittingly or unwittingly allow themselves to be watched, tracked, linked and predicted in a blurred amalgam of commercial and governmental projects. Linking back and forth from consumer data to government information to social media, these new webs of information become available to anyone who can purchase the information. How is it that governmental, commercial and security interests have converged, coincided, and also diverged in ways, in the production of Big Data? Which sectors have stimulated the production and mining of this information? How have the various projects aligned or contradicted each other? In this paper, I begin to explore these questions along two dimensions. First, I sketch in broad strokes the historical development and growth of the digital realm. I offer some categories to understand the mass of data that surrounds us today, and lay some foundation for the notion of a digital knowledge. Then, I investigate the new political economy of data that has emerged, as a way to suggest some of the larger forces that are at play in our new digital age.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: Big Data, surveillance, data mining, markets, computation, consumption, advertising, privacy

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Date posted: May 31, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Governing, Exchanging, Securing: Big Data and the Production of Digital Knowledge (May 23, 2014). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-390. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2443515

Contact Information

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)
Columbia University ( email )
Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt
Columbia University ( email )
7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
HOME PAGE: http://polisci.columbia.edu/people/profile/1685
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