Transactional politics

Ruppert, Evelyn and Savage, Mike (2012). Transactional politics. In: Adkins, Lisa and Lury, Celia eds. Measure and Value. Wiley.



In spring 2009, revelations over the expense claims of British MPs led to one of the most damaging scandals affecting the legitimacy of parliamentary democracy in recent history. This article explores how this incident reveals the capacity of Web 2.0 devices and transactional data to transform politics. It reflects, graphically, the political power of identifying and knowing people on the basis of their transactions, on what they do rather than what they say. It also shows in practice how Web 2.0 devices such as Crowdsourcing, Google Docs, mash-ups and visualisation software can be used to mobilise data for collective and popular projects. Basic analytic tools freely available on the Web enable people to access, digitise and analyse data and do their own analyses and representations of phenomena. We examine media and popular mobilisations of transactional data using the specific example of the MPs expenses scandal and relate this to larger currents in on-line government data and devices for public scrutiny which give rise to a new politics of measurement. We argue that this politics of measurement involves the introduction of new visual devices based on the manipulation of huge databases into simplified visual arrays; the re-orientation of accounts of the social from elicited attitudes and views to transactions and practices; and, the inspection of individuals arrayed in relation to other individuals within whole (sub) populations. It is also a politics that mobilises new informational gatekeepers and organisers in the making and analysis of transactional data and challenges dominant or expert forms of analysis and representation.

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