Clocks, Algorithms, and Biopower
The main subject of Wan's research focuses on the temporal dimensions of twenty-first-century media and traces how bodies are subjected to biopolitical control through time-related technologies. The history of clocks and computing is evoked to provide a material understanding of algorithms through their mechanical counterparts, and to demonstrate how time has been used as a disciplinary tool.
power on the population
Clocks gave rise to a logic of quantification and measurement, a logic which has historically been co-opted into a regime of labour and slave management. This has been examined in light of plantation labour in times of American slavery and in English factories during the Industrial Revolution. Time measurement provides quantification of labour with scientific precision, generating a rhythm that shapes bodies subjected under its control, whose worth may be measured through the value of productivity and output. If clocks were seen as key to the imposition of clock discipline, how do twenty-first-century media, with their mode of beyond-human time mediation, impose power on the population?
new rhythms of work
The works of Michel Foucault and his contemporaries are analysed to show how the theories of discipline and biopower could be updated for the digital era. The technological and chronological dimensions of biopower are highlighted through the proposed concept of ‘techno-chrono-biopolitics’. How does biopower express itself today from the assemblage of codes, apps, and devices? Which bodies are most susceptible to the new logics of microtemporal algorithms? The digital brings about new forms of surveillance and control and introduces new rhythms of work in a 24/7, always-online, on-demand culture.
regimes of biopower
Against the ephemerality and invisibility that define our wireless internet, the work turns the focus back to bodies and the material dimension of technologies. From clock-use in colonisation and slavery to tracking algorithms on the Apple Watch and Quantified Self devices, the project traces the relations of how technology mediates time and inaugurates regimes of biopower.