CHRISTOPHER PEREZ Naturalization of Data: Consumer Infrastructure and Capital in the Former Soviet Bloc
Abstract: Architectures, Natures and Data: The Politics of Environments in Tallinn, Estonia, April 2017
What role does the naturalization of data have in the control of subjects through the design of infrastructure? Situated within the global economic context and technologies of the 21st century, Western infrastructure plays a major part in controlling the modern subject through the environment it creates. Aided by the rise of collective data, Western infrastructure has materialized in various built environments across the globe, including those belonging to the former Soviet Bloc. The consumeristic nature of this infrastructure has created spaces wherein the modern subject is prone to being controlled in away that leads to the algorithmic personalization of bodies. This paper will investigate the role of consumer data and the implementation of such data within the urban environment of cities situated in the former Soviet Bloc. The role of consumer data, I argue, has become naturalized within a Western perspective and is looked to as a source of enlightenment. States use this data to better mitigate control over the subject through digital governmentality. This data is then incorporated into the infrastructure of various cities — i.e. shopping centers — and leads to the creation of a commodified urban environment, thus optimizing the ability of states to control their citizenry through mass production of infrastructure. The algorithmic personalization that is being used directly by the state to control what is being bought and sold leads to the eradication of both the democratic citizen and the emergence of class conflicts situated within the built environment. This examination into the role of data in the built environment of the former Soviet Bloc would allow for a better understanding of how such data,through infrastructure and spaces created by neoliberalism, leads to the destabilization of subjectivity and the algorithmic personalization of the polis. I will illustrate that the implications of naturalized data, capital and infrastructure are not localized, but rather can be discovered within the urban fabric of many former Soviet cities. This paper seeks to frame a question that requires attention within the discourses of architecture and urbanism: what role does the naturalization of capital and data within the urban environment have in controlling the modern subject? This is what I define as the eradication of the democratic citizen and urban environment through politics of infrastructure space and the collection of data. //
Christopher Perez is a Masters of Architecture Student at Iowa State University. Prior to studying architecture, he earned a B.A. in German and International Studies from Iowa State University. His research focuses on the intersection of capital and data within the built environment of Eastern Europe.