The Machinic Temporality of Metadata

  • Claudio Celis Cardiff University
Keywords: Marx, Control Societies, Deleuze, Guattari, Machinic Time, Big Data, Attention Economy, Cognitive Capitalism, Metadata


In 1990 Deleuze introduced the hypothesis that disciplinary societies are gradually being replaced by a new logic of power: control. Accordingly, Matteo Pasquinelli has recently argued that we are moving towards societies of metadata, which correspond to a new stage of what Deleuze called control societies. Societies of metadata are characterised for the central role that meta-information acquires both as a source of surplus value and as an apparatus of social control. The aim of this article is to develop Pasquinelli’s thesis by examining the temporal scope of these emerging societies of metadata. In particular, this article employs Guattari’s distinction between human and machinic times. Through these two concepts, this article attempts to show how societies of metadata combine the two poles of capitalist power formations as identified by Deleuze and Guattari, i.e. social subjection and machinic enslavement. It begins by presenting the notion of metadata in order to identify some of the defining traits of contemporary capitalism. It then examines Berardi’s account of the temporality of the attention economy from the perspective of the asymmetric relation between cyber-time and human time. The third section challenges Berardi’s definition of the temporality of the attention economy by using Guattari’s notions of human and machinic times. Parts four and five fall back upon Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of machinic surplus labour and machinic enslavement, respectively. The concluding section tries to show that machinic and human times constitute two poles of contemporary power formations that articulate the temporal dimension of societies of metadata.