Politics and ‘the digital’: From singularity to specificity
The relationship between politics and the digital has largely been characterized as one of epochal change. The respective theories understand the digital as external to politics and society, as an autonomous driver for global, unilateral transformation. Rather than supporting such singular accounts of the relationship between politics and the digital, this article argues for its specificity: the digital is best examined in terms of folds within existing socio-technical configurations, and as an artefact with a set of affordances that are shaped and filled with meaning by social practice. In conceptualizing the digital as numeric, countable, computable, material, storable, searchable, transferable, networkable and traceable, fabricated and interpreted, it becomes clear that the digital cannot be divorced from the social. These affordances of the digital are discussed in relation to specific political, digital practices that are further developed in the different contributions in this special issue, such as predictive policing (Aradau and Blanke, this issue), data protection (Bellanova, this issue), extremist recruitment videos (Leander, this issue), political acclamation (Dean, this issue), and pandemic simulations (Opitz, this issue).