The Reality of Data Mining: Sculpting Discourse, Knowledge, and the New Subject

  • Quinn MacNeil University of Winnipeg


Debates over privacy are especially common in the digital age. They often materialize into attitudes of indifference with moralist cores purporting the question’s irrelevance to the good, law-abiding citizen. While there are plenty of arguments to oppose this position on surveillance, this paper focuses on a different concern in the privacy debate—data mining. In this paper, I argue that data mining—that is the collection of information on the individual such as preferences, locations, emotions, interests, behaviour, demographic, etc.—has concrete effects on our realities. It does so by curating what is sensible and intelligible through discourse, through proxies that culturally embed “truths,” and by constructing new subjectivities. Contrary to the position articulated above, I argue we should care deeply about privacy over our data and scrutinize the normalization of its being collected as a by-product of our participation on web 2.0, smart devices, and an ever-growing digital life.