Proxying the Data Body: Artificial Intelligence, Federated Identity, and Machinic Subjection


  • Sam Popowich University of Alberta



Academic libraries have recently seen a shift from self-management of user-authentication of licensed resources themselves, to cloud-based implementations of "federated identity" technologies. Such technologies aim to solve the problems of fragile access to licensed resources while also better protecting publishers' intellectual property. However, federated identity systems raise a host of issues regarding privacy, surveillance, machinic subjection, and algorithmic governance. This paper traces the development of federated identity systems out of earlier authentication processes, shows how such systems use artificial intelligence techniques to create a trackable "data body" for each student, and then analyzes this whole procedure through the critical theories of Maurizio Lazzarato and Bernard Stiegler. In conclusion, the article argues that the emergent nature of the "data body" creates ambiguity between the hyper-control of contemporary technologies and the possibility of resisting them.