Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



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.


Computer Law | Internet Law | Law | Privacy Law


This paper was presented at a daylong conference organized by Professor Pierre-Michel Menger, Collège de France, Paris, June 2, 2014.