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The expansion of datafication, from state surveillance systems to smart machines and the Internet of Things, exemplifies the enduring faith in technology as knowledge machines, and technological futures as the next great leap forward towards a rational society. Yet such technologies are constantly defined and justified through impossible prototypes and unfulfilled promises, grand visions sketched boldly on powerpoint slides. I study the social life of technological fantasies - fantasies which tend to constrain the kind of truly transformative social, economic and moral reform that technology could and should be made to support.
My forthcoming book, Technologies of Speculation: The limits of knowledge in a data-driven society (NYU Press, 2020), asks: what counts as knowledge in the age of big data and smart machines? In the pursuit of better knowledge, technology is reshaping what counts as knowledge in its own image. The push for algorithmic certainty sets loose an expansive array of incomplete archives, speculative judgments and simulated futures. All too often, data generates speculation as much as it does information. The book traces this twisted symbiosis of knowledge and uncertainty in emerging state and self-surveillance technologies, from the Snowden affair to the racialisation of the 'Lone Wolf' terrorist, the Quantified Self for the datafication of everyday life and its integration into a data market for prediction and control. Ultimately, the book argues that as datafication transforms what counts as knowledge, it is dismantling the longstanding link between knowledge and human reason, rational publics and free individuals.
My current research project, Personal Truthmaking in a Data-Driven Society, examines the growing fractures in the popular consensus as to what looks and sounds like 'truth' online. Tracing the connections across deepfakes, self-tracking devices and disinformation influencers, it examines how the modern virtues of critique, reason, evidence, are being weaponised - how we are, in essence, being trolled by/with the Enlightenment.
Other areas of study include critical theory and technology ethics; the history of technological ideas, such as innovation; the works of Michel Foucault; the many branches of technology studies; digital culture and Silicon Valley; affect, phenomenology and the problem of the body. I am open to supervising student projects in these and related areas.
- 2016 Ph.D. Communication, University of Pennsylvania
- 2010 M.A. Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
- 2008 B.A. Hons. Media Studies & B.A. Classical Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
- (2020) Technologies of Speculation: The limits of knowledge in a data-driven society. NYU Press. (Formerly Fabrications)
Selected Journal Articles
- 2019 "The Futures of Anticipatory Reason: Contingency and speculation in the sting operation." Security Dialogue 50:4, 314-330. With Piotr Szpunar.
- 2017 “Criticising Surveillance and Surveillance Critique: why privacy and humanism are necessary but insufficient.” Surveillance & Society 15:2, 187-203.
- 2016 “Data’s Intimacy: Machinic sensibility and the quantified self.” Communication +1 5.
- 2015 “Presence, or the sense of being-there and being-with in the new media society.” First Monday 20:10.
- 2015 “Subjunctive and Interpassive Knowing in the Surveillance Society.” Media and Communication 3:2, 63-76.
- 2015 “Affecting in Discourse: Communicating Uncertainty and Communicating Uncertainly.” Subjectivity 8:3, 201-223.
- 2015 “When Life Mattered: the politics of the real in video games’ reappropriation of history, myth and ritual.” Games & Culture 10:1, 35-56.
- 2014 “The Other-Publics: mediated othering and the public sphere in the Dreyfus Affair.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 17:6, 665-681.
- 2018 “Surveillance, Sensors, and Knowledge through the machine.” In: Digital Existence: Ontology, Ethics and Transcendence in Digital Culture, ed. Amanda Lagerkvist. Routledge.
- 2017 Carolyn Marvin & Sun-ha Hong, “Introduction.” In: Place, Space, and Mediated Communication: Exploring Context Collapse, ed. Carolyn Marvin & Sun-ha Hong, Routledge.
- 2017 Amelia Arsenault, Sun-ha Hong & Monroe Price. “Strategic Narratives of the Arab Spring and After.” In Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations, ed. Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin & Laura Roselle. University of Michigan Press.
- 2016 Sun-ha Hong & François Allard-Huver, “Governing Governments: Discursive contestations of governmentality in the transparency dispositif.” In: Studies of Discourse and Governmentality. New perspectives and methods, ed. Paul McIlvenny et al., John Benjamins.
- 2017 Place, Space, and Mediated Communication: Exploring Context Collapse, ed. Carolyn Marvin, Sun-ha Hong & Barbie Zelizer, Routledge.
Keywords: New media, critical theory, continental philosophy, big data, AI, digital culture, surveillance, affect, science and technology studies