Bernard Stiegler on Algorithmic Governmentality: A New Regimen of Truth?

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DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:98.04.2019

This essay examines philosopher of technology and media Bernard Stiegler’s propositions concerning the nature and effects of the automation of social existence through computational processes deployed in online media. It argues for the critical pertinence of Stiegler’s approach to this widespread and now increasingly apparent deployment. I centre my examination on Stiegler’s adoption and critical re-reading of Antoinette Rouvroy and Thomas Berns’ concept of ‘algorithmic governmentality’. This concept characterises the realtime deployment of these automated processes as a significant transformation from the pre-digital era’s application of statistical methods of analysis and prediction of social phenomena, a transformation driven above all by the strategic development and application of recent advances in AI and machine learning. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s influential analysis of governmentality and his work on the interconnections of power, knowledge and truth in social control, Rouvroy and Berns propose that algorithmic governmentality ushers in a new regime of truth. Stiegler accepts in large part their analysis of what I term this new ‘regimen’ but challenges the claim that it amounts to the apparatus of a new truth. My discussion considers the terms and the stakes of this disagreement about the truth, and the place of the technological regimen in this disagreement. 

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98: Automation Anxiety