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Accepted Paper:

Slow Digitalization and the Social in Germany  
Vita Peacock (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

The slow pace of digitalization in Germany is the subject of humour and hand-wringing by its lively 'digital civil society'. This paper contends that it is precisely its negotiated nature that allows the possibility for alternative digitalization, in which these associations play a vital role.

Paper long abstract:

The comparatively slow pace of digitalization in Germany is the subject of humour and hand-wringing by its lively ‘digital civil society’, who decry that much of the country’s state infrastructure is still living ‘in the stone age’. Many parts of the state bureaucracies still rely heavily on paper, and where computers have been integrated they can be outdated, or paper still functions as the essential form of mediation between computerized processes.

This paper contends that Germany’s local bureaucracies and its progressive digital activists in fact share the same value of ‘non-digital-centric-ness’ (Pink et al. 2016): namely, that digitalizing is not a virtue in itself but a process of modernization that should serve existing human needs and ends. This process is the subject of intense negotiation and debate, and rather than being a technological fait accompli, the politics of digital infrastructures sit at the heart of these debates: in which ‘sovereignty’, ‘open source’ and the constitutional right of German citizens to ‘informational self-determination’ are key terms and reference points.

I offer that the effect of slow digitalization in Germany is to produce a meaningful potential for alternative digitalization. A number of salients across the Republic suggest that Germany is pursuing a progressive Sonderweg with respect to digital technologies, in which the hegemony of the Big Five is brought boldly into question.

Panel P20c
Digitalization and the Reconstitution of the Social and Political Realities of Human Being
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 June, 2022, -