The Infopolitics of Race: Segregation by Data, 1923-1938
A/Prof. Colin Koopman (University of Oregon)

December 8, 2015, 11:00am - 1:00pm
European Philosophy and the History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI), Deakin University

Level 3, 550 Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000


  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Deakin University


Contemporary political assemblages from mass surveillance to finance capitalism to big data suggest that we may be in the midst of new political conditions.  Many have sought to conceptualize these assemblages in such terms as “the information society” or “new media culture” while others would amalgamate them as an ideological effect of “neoliberalism”.  But a different conceptualization of the stakes of our contemporary political transformations would enable us to attend to new modes of power that are redefining the very terms of the politics of the now.  Are we in the midst of emerging political landscapes that cannot be comprehended under previous conceptualizations of power, such as the sovereign power of the state, the disciplinary power of training, and the biopower of regulation?  If so, we may need an analytics of an emergent infopower at the intersection of information and power.  Infopower would focus on how we have come to recognize ourselves in the flurry of data that is constantly being produced by and about us.

By deploying Foucault’s genealogical methodology, this work investigates the history of how we became the informational persons we are today.  The focus is on an array of practices from the 1910s to the 1930s which precipitated the emergence of the total informational vision of postwar cybernetics.  Specifically, the presentation will focus on a particular locale, the United States between 1923 and 1938, in which there emerged residential racial segregation by way of the emergence of real estate appraisal algorithms that explicitly integrated racial data (as well as racist assumptions) into their analytics.

Colin Koopman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. He works primarily through the critical traditions of Pragmatism and Genealogy, with an eye toward using methods and concepts from these two traditions to engage current issues in politics, ethics, and culture. He is the author of Pragmatism as Transition (Columbia UP, 2009) and Genealogy as Critique (Indiana UP, 2013). He is currently working on a project about infopolitics, which focuses on the overlay between information and politics in the context of liberal democratic cultures.

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December 7, 2015, 9:00am +10:00

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