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Vol. 3 No. 1 (2021)

Data Perversion: a Psychoanalytic Perspective on Datafication

September 8, 2020


This article adopts a psychoanalytic perspective and argues that users are in a perverse relationship with contemporary platforms. Following a review of recent critical scholarship on datafication, which places too much emphasis on platforms and situates users as helpless, the psychoanalytic concept of perversion is introduced. Perversion describes a relationship that is characterised by dominance, exploitation and dehumanization as well as care, love, and idealization. While the pervert (the platform and its owners and developers) is the perpetrator, the other (the user) is also actively participating in the perverse relationship. Contemporary relations are thus marked by foregrounding connectivity, convenience and communication which mask the violence of datafication. Such relations are upheld, because users affirmatively reproduce them by using highly attractive platforms which are customized for each individual. Psychoanalysis can thus offer a complex conceptualisation of the interplay between affirmation, attraction and exploitation that is immanent to platforms and users today.    


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