Data surveillance by private companies and public intelligence agencies is intricated, and research has shown how citizens have become willing participants in their own surveillance. This brings forth a new type of governmentality that is legitimised by hegemonic imaginaries on “Big Data” and innovation which are closely related to the imaginary of technological growth.
The Snowden disclosures made this a topic of public debate.
Yet a review of Degrowth literature shows that while there is a rich theoric framework allowing us to think critically about technology, little has been written about privacy, data protection and data surveillance.
As was shown in France during the COP21 conference, the extension of the notion of terrorism to some categories of activists is a threat for the Degrowth movement itself. Furthermore, Quantified Self, Big Data and algorithmic surveillance fit into technical, managerial and social trends that are the continuation of the bureaucratic process of rationalising societies to promote productivity.
This paper first reviews existing Degrowth literature on information technology to analyse the technocapitalist imaginary on Big Data. It then explores the case of a “concrete utopia”, Free Software, in a critical perspective to see whether and how it could help Degrowth philosophy to shape alternative imaginaries and practices. It concludes that not only does Degrowth provide the ability to frame the debate on Privacy and technology in a way that challenges technocapitalist imaginaries on “Big Data”, but also sketches the outline of future research into alternatives in line with the principles of a future, desirable convivial society.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Framing the Privacy Debate and Big Data Governmentality in Degrowth Theory“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.