"Data protection is a fundamental right in Europe". Examining sociotechnical imaginaries of search engines and a European identity
Astrid Mager (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines visions and values mobilized in the co-production of search engines and Europe. Focusing on the EU data protection reform, it shows how a European search engine imaginary forms, how a European identity is constructed, and how national particularities help to un/make Europe.
Paper long abstract:
The EU data protection reform ran from 2012 until 2015 and resulted in a unified data protection legislation directly binding for all European member states. Examining EU policy documents and Austrian media materials related to the reform process and drawing on the concept "sociotechnical imaginary", I analyze 1) how the European imaginary of search engines forms and how fundamental rights are conceptualized as core European values (complementing techno-euphoric visions of digital innovation), 2) how a politics of control is envisioned and how a European identity is constructed, and 3) how fragile the European identity is when it is confronted with national specificities deeply rooted in different historical, cultural and economic traditions. This analysis shows that EU policy is mainly concerned with containing IT giants like Google and their business practices and hence follows a politics of control. In this context, the European identity is constructed in contrast to "the other", most importantly the US technology-policy nexus (resembling the imaginary of European technology politics as a "technological race with the United States" (Jasanoff 2005) in a certain way). It further shows that the European search engine imaginary is not only crafted in policy discourses, but also in national media debates, where strong metaphors are used to both solidify and shatter a European identity. To conclude, I discuss the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of sociotechnical imaginaries by arguing that not only technology, but also Europe is differently crafted, made and unmade in different locations.
Technopolitics of integration. Charting imaginaries of innovation in the European Union