Knowing, Judging, Calculating: Consumer Credit Surveillance and the Infrastructure of Prediction

Lecture | October 11 | 4:10-5:30 p.m. | 202 South Hall

 Josh Lauer

 Information, School of

During the late twentieth century, computerized credit scoring emerged as a key technology for sorting American consumers into categories of risk and pricing their value. These systems opened the door to new forms of statistical classification and prefigured the growth of contemporary algorithmic society. Though computing and telecommunication technologies facilitated the development of automated scoring systems, they did not appear in a vacuum. They were built upon well-established surveillance infrastructures. Long before databases or algorithms, American consumers were already identified, tracked, and evaluated by a national network of consumer credit bureaus. These paper bureaucracies amassed huge archives of personal information, including the details of oneâs home life, reputation, and morality. The history of this consumer credit surveillance infrastructure, which dates to the 1870s, reveals the conceptual roots and calculating logic of twenty-first-century surveillance capitalism.Â