(Re)Creating "Society in Silico": Surveillance Capitalism, Simulations and Subjectivity in the Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal


This article provides a different angle to understand the Cambridge Analytica (CA) data scandal. It focuses on the role of models and simulations in the big data campaigning tools CA allegedly used, and their epistemological and ontological potential to produce and reproduce voters' digital doubles that would first colonise and eventually replace the analogue selves they were related to. By integrating and revising Zuboff's surveillance capitalism framework with Debord's classic theory of the Spectacle, the article argues that the dystopian simulations played as real life experiments by surveillance capitalist firms such as CA have the ultimate goal of replacing analogue humanity with digital humanity – the two kinds are ontologically different albeit dialectically related. The predictive models that these simulations produce are only as good as the capacity of the digital doubles in the simulations to shape the behaviour of analogue selves in line with the simulations' parameters and goals.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v14i2p954

Keywords: Capitalism; digital democracy; digitalisation; simulation; spectacle; subjectivity; surveillance

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