The Pastoral Power of Technology. Rethinking Alienation in Digital Culture

  • Katarina Giritli Nygren Mid Sweden University
  • Katarina L Gidlund Mid Swden University
Keywords: Digital culture, alienation, pastoral power, digital practices


The purpose of this paper is to bring Foucault’s elaboration on ‘the pastoral modalities of power’ into play in order to rethink alienation in digital culture. Pastoral power is not displacing other conceptions of power, but provides another level of analysis involved in the forging of reasonable responsible subjects willing and able to sustain other conceptions of power. We will draw particularly on the early writings of Marx and the more recent poststructuralist developments concerning hegemony and superstructure in relation to technology. Technology as such is analysed in terms of repercussions of ‘design of the machine’ in industrial technological contexts and ‘design of digital culture’ in digital technological contexts. Pastoral power not only directs our focus to the making of technologies, but also to the making of individuals capable of taking on the responsibilities of technologies. This means that it is necessary to take on the notion of effective power of ideologies and their material reality.



Author Biography

Katarina L Gidlund, Mid Swden University

Katarina L Gidlund is associate professor of Informatics at Mid Sweden University. Her main research interest is critical studies of digital technology and societal change. This involves issues such as critical and reflexive design, defamiliarization, the discursive level of design, and the interplay between rhetoric and practice (hegemonies and their material practices, power structures, the visualization of dominant stories, and embedded internationalities). She is co-coordinator of the Swedish eGovernment Research Network, programme committee member of the International EGOV conference and the Scandinavian Information Systems Conference, and editorial board member of the International Journal of Public Information Systems.

Marx is Back-The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Comm. Studies Today, ed C. Fuchs & Vincent Mosco