The Political Life of Metrics
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This chapter extends the analysis of the previous chapter to the role of metrics in political practice, using the U.S. standard graduation rate metric as a case. I argue that information is best understood as a process of communication in which observation is encoded into data through the translation regime and then decoded into metrics which are then institutionalized in political processes. In both processes, political factors are prominent, making metrics a political outcome at the least. I go further, however, showing that metrics play important distributive roles in politics, allocating material and moral goods as well as the conditions of political power. Metrics also exercise political control directly, working much like administrative procedures to select favored outcomes without direct legislative intervention and building the capacity of the state to exercise control over policy areas.
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