Evelyn Wan

Winner Dissertation Prize 2019

Clocked! Time and Biopower in the Age of Algorithms.

Supervisor: Prof.dr. Maaike Bleeker
Nomination: Utrecht University, Faculty of Humanities (Media and Performance Studies)

Report by the selection committee

Are we still in control of our own time? Or are algorithms taking over our time and governing our lives? In her thesis, Wan shows how contemporary technological developments are creating new forms of control, discipline and even exploitation. Just as the invention of the clock made it possible for the first time to quantify and synchronize work and other activities, and thus influence our daily lives, technology – partly invisible – is now intensifying that control and discipline. In her thesis, Evelyn Wan puts forward a dystopian image in which the impact of algorithms and digital technologies extends to a biological level, right into our bodies.

Evelyn Wan shows how over the centuries the idea of measuring time has evolved, from the first mechanical clocks to today’s digital data collections, and increasingly determines our lives. She also issues an urgent warning. For the clock is ticking, literally and figuratively. Wan has written a very timely book, and it is for good reason that it has already garnered so much media attention. The book is also compiled with the precision of a Swiss watch. The author succeeds in bringing various sources of information together in an exciting mixture, and she manages to translate even the most impenetrable philosophical or technical discussions into a legible text.