Methods as Forces of Subjectivation: Experiments in the Remaking of Official Statistics

Baki Cakici and Evelyn Ruppert

Journal of Cultural Economy, 2019.

We develop the concept of methods as ‘forces of subjectivation’ in relation to experiments we have encountered in a study of government methods for generating official population statistics. These experiments problematise the subjects of traditional methods based on paper questionnaires and offer new digital technologies and data sources as possible solutions. We reflect on these experiments in relation to recent work on sociological and digital research methods as inventive and live. What this work identifies in relation to questions of research methods we take up to think about government methods in two ways. One concerns how government method experiments offered as solutions to problematic subjects, once put into action, change initial problem formulations and are inventive of new ones. Secondly, they are also inventive of their subjects who do not pre-exist but come into being through the agential capacities that methods configure. Both aspects of methods, we argue, are the result of the interactions and dynamics between human and technological actors, the outcomes of which cannot be settled in advance.

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