Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Dodge, M. and Kitchin, R.
Codes of life: Identification codes and the machine-readable world.
Optional Fields
In this paper we present a detailed examination of identification codes, their embeddedness in everyday life, and how recent trends are qualitatively altering their nature and power. Developing a Foucaultian analysis we argue that identification codes are key components of governmentality and capitalism. They provide a means of representing, collating, sorting, categorising, matching, profiling, regulating, of generating information, knowledge, and control through processes of abstraction, computation, modeling, and classification. Identification codes now provide a means of uniquely addressing all the entities and processes that make up everyday lifeƶpeople, material objects, information, transactions, and territories. Moreover, they provide a means of linking these entities and processes together in complex ways to form dense rhizomic assemblages of power/knowledge. At present, however, the information that identification codes provide access to are, at best, oligopticon in natureƶthat is, they afford only partial and selective views. In the latter part of the paper we outline four trends: wide-scale trawling for data, increased granularity, forever storage, and enhanced processing and analysis that seek to convert these partial oligopticons into more panoptic arrangements. In turn, we contend that these trends are part of a larger meta-trend the creation of a machine-readable world in which identification codes can be systematically and automatically `read' and acted on by software independent of human control. This metatrend is supported by interlocking discourses such as safety, security, efficiency, antifraud, citizenship and consumer empowerment, productivity, reliability, flexibility, economic rationality, and competitive advantage to construct powerful, supportive discursive regimes.
Grant Details