Alison Powell’s talk troubled contemporary understandings of the ‘user’, ‘consumer’ and ‘citizen’. In her framing, the ‘user’ represents the most generic form of actor. But do we then think of the user as an individual that is subject to a technology? In contrast, a citizen is someone with rights and also responsibilities – rights to freedoms, privacy, etc. but also responsibilities to act in ways that produce a society that is desirable to live in. Alison questioned what relations we are trying to get at through the figurings of the consumer-citizen? How are the notions of citizen and consumer folded together and used to perform and reinforce particular social and economic paradigms? Are ‘data’ technologies defining citizens as generators of data, that get fed back to them as citizen-consumers, instantiating a distinctive idea of the social vis-à-vis production, consumption and economy? In what ways do notions of the ‘common good’ ally with such ideas; who gets to decide what constitutes a ‘good’ and how are ‘data’ technologies playing a role in this?
Can we explain, in any coherent and consistent way, the relationships between data and citizens’ rights and responsibilities? If technological developments are placing us in the midst of a renegotiation of the social contract, do notions of the common good and civil society need to be reconsidered as well?