Accepted Paper:

Postmodern fantasies of government  
David Brown (Deakin University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will examine the discourse of digital government, its unintended and unannounced consequences, and how it deflects our attention from the complexities of the mediating interests and structures through its own expression of the post-modern imaginary.

Paper long abstract:

The discourse described in the abstract for this panel attempts an explanation of our current situation but is also a call to arms to bring it on. Not only does it attempt to make sense of current trends, but strives to be the dominant narrative that serves as a motivating myth for those who might take advantage of our changing circumstances. Whilst promising a weightless, frictionless and seamless existence, they obscure the mediations on which they depend, as well as the mediations of the world they dream of leaving. Both sets of mediations are at least as centripetal as they are centrifugal—more likely to pull us into a modernist rationalising totality, rather than flinging us out into a post-modernist firmament.

The drive to digital government is one location where these games play out. The promise is a new type of government in which "the relationship between citizens, government and business has been transformed", in part through a "seamless interface between agencies and between government and its constituents". But behind such visions is a struggle of mediating forces: the stranglehold of legacy systems, the drive of the IT and consulting industries to penetrate government, the neoliberal insistence on reducing the cost and size of government, the opportunities for surveillance offered by multiple layers of IT, the dream of AI-based bureaucracy and the need of public officials to extend their oversight and control over their programs and "customers."

Panel P11
Society 2.0: post-human assemblages and the death or rebirth of the social