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The digitisation of politics: from the emergence of modulation to the dissolution of the body politic

Savat, David (2003) The digitisation of politics: from the emergence of modulation to the dissolution of the body politic. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Front Pages
Embargoed until 30 June 2030.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Embargoed until 30 June 2030.


This thesis is an investigation of politics in the context of digital technologies. Its central claim is that technologies of what I call the digital ensemble express a politics that is very different from that of other technological ensembles. In order to come to an understanding of politics in the digital, this thesis explores three broader themes by way of discussions of three different technologies or assemblages of the digital. While I do not aim to establish an overarching conclusion as to a politics of the digital, I do identify both elements that are common among the three themes and where they diverge from one another.

The first theme concerns the operation of power in the context of the database and examines how subjects are acted upon. I argue that databases represent both an amplification of the disciplinary mode of power and, as a product of that amplification, also express a new mode of power referred to by Deleuze as modulation. It is this concurrent operation of these two modes of power that produces the subject as 'dividual', both object and objectile at the same time, which has a number of consequences in terms of how subjects are controlled and governed.

The second theme considers how the subject is constituted as actor and how this relates to the construction of the political in the context of the digital ensemble. This is achieved by way of looking at the concept of the interface. I argue that digital technologies constitute very different practices or forms of doing, both spatially and temporally. Using a broader phenomenological approach, I argue that these technologies constitute very different forms of being than that of the individual that is so central to much of modern political thought and its construction of the political. A key expression of the political in the digital ensemble, I argue, is the interface, enabling the production of a new human-machine assemblage constituting itself as flow/s.

The third theme is an exploration of the conceptualisation of political action in the context of digital technologies. Here I make use of the technological assemblage of the network in exploring the actions of fluid beings. I argue that modern political thought has always conceptualised political action as the action of solid entities acting upon and in relation to other solid entities. In the context of digital technologies, however, I argue that such a conceptualisation of action is not very useful; if one conceptualises the actor as fluid, then so must its actions be conceptualised as fluid. It is in such a context that concepts of flow and turbulence gain great importance in coming to terms with politics in the digital. Indeed, to the extent that a digitisation of politics can be discerned, I argue it makes much sense to think of it as a politics of fluidity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Politics and International Studies
Supervisor(s): Cook, Ian
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