More on the "Data as Exhaust" Metaphor
Research paper: Gavin J.D. Smith, “Surveillance, Data and Embodiment: On the Work of Being Watched,” Body and Society, January 2016.
Abstract: Today’s bodies are akin to ‘walking sensor platforms’. Bodies either host, or are the subjects of, an array of sensing devices that act to convert bodily movements, actions and dynamics into circulative data. This article proposes the notions of ‘disembodied exhaust’ and ’embodied exhaustion’ to conceptualise processes of bodily sensorisation and datafication. As the material body interfaces with networked sensor technologies and sensing infrastructures, it emits disembodied exhaust: gaseous flows of personal information that establish a representational data-proxy. It is this networked actant that progressively structures how embodied subjects experience their daily lives. The significance of this symbiont medium in determining the outcome of interplays between networked individuals and audiences necessitates that it is carefully contrived. The article explores the nature and function of the data-proxy, and its impact on social relations. Drawing on examples that depict individuals engaging with their data-proxies, the article suggests that managing a virtual presence is analogous to a work relation, demanding diligence and investment. But it also shows how the data-proxy operates as a mode of affect that challenges conventional distinctions made between organic and inorganic bodies, agency and actancy, mortality and immortality, presence and absence.