'Public Money and Democracy' is my contribution to Economic Science Fictions, ed. Will Davies (Goldsmiths, 2018). It is practice-led research exploring algorithmic governance, the democratization of money, and the future of data-driven journalism.
As we move through the world, we generate data which amplifies, modulates, mimics and subverts both our awareness of the world and our agency within it. Where and how do we draw lines between ourselves and our data? How far should we delegate our powers to our data? When vast impersonal systems prefer to deal with our data than with its origins, what options do we have to empower ourselves? Or should we sometimes prefer to tactically disempower ourselves?
As data networks deepen their entanglement with our economic, social, and cultural life, new affordances arise for the quantification, analysis, administration, platformisation, and financialisation of our everyday experience and conduct. We become legible to and manipulable by systems of impersonal power in new and unpredictable ways. This is seen nowhere more clearly than in the growth of platform capitalism and its precarious, often intimately managed workforce.
There is a corollary of the colonisation of our everyday lives by techno-capital, however: exchange value – something that has never quite been the homogenous, affectless and nondiscursive medium that it is sometimes stereotyped to be! – grows correspondingly more absorptive of our everyday lives, including features heretofore considered irreducibly qualitative. In other words, the flip side of the quantified self is the enculturation of quantity. We may be approaching a window where it is possible to transform the metrics and agencies we call 'money' into something capable of truly value what we value as individuals and as society.