In this panel we ask what publics are shaped and enacted by national and transnational surveillance, border and post-crisis management technologies and how can we study them by mobilizing the conceptual and methodological repertoire of STS.
In Europe, policy decisions dictated by executive powers after 9/11 have enabled new national and transnational surveillance, border and post-crisis management technologies to take shape in the name of controlled migration and preventing and reacting to crime and terror. What publics are shaped and enacted by these technologies and how can we study them by mobilizing the conceptual and methodological repertoire of STS?
The modus operandi of pre-emptive security measures builds on decisions calling upon what Gunnarsdóttir and Rommetveit termed "phantom publics" instead of testing such decisions' grounding. How can publics nevertheless engage to hold the management of technologies accountable?
An alternative take addresses categories deriving from the social sorting of technologies. Differentiating between trusted and distrusted travelers, low-risk and high-risk groups, documented and undocumented migrants have been regarded as dynamic and contested concepts. Dijstelbloem and Broeders have introduced the notion of "non-publics" to point to heterogeneous publics with ambiguous access to exercise their rights. How can shifted attention from pre-given classifications to ontological modifications of categories provide a perspective on the empowering and disempowering effects on publics?
A third perspective focusses on "counter publics". Enacting for instance "subversive mobilities" or "temporary autonomous zones" by destabilizing or subverting routines and scripts of technologies allows actors to claim rights and space that have either not yet been formally granted or cannot be exercised. How can actions with the potential to circumvent borders and surveillance create invigorated possibilities for renegotiating their performative power?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Co-inventing a participatory “return of experience” digital platform for post-crisis management in Belgium
Our post-industrial societies are confronted with evolving crises. To learn from them and increase sociotechnical systems’ resilience, this paper assesses how crisis actors can build and appropriate a digital return of experience platform.
In various high-risk industries (e.g. aviation industry, hospitals, nuclear research centers), post-crisis management frameworks (called return of experience- REX) have been institutionalized and standardized in an attempt to better anticipate and manage incidents, accidents, and disasters. These REX systems aim, in principle, at stimulating collective learning from previous events and enhancing sociotechnical resilience. Aware of the existence of such frameworks in industries, several Belgian crisis actors (e.g. actors from the police, fire and health services) have called for a REX framework suited to the Belgian crisis management context. But how can such a framework be implemented and “made to work”?
Leaning on risk assessment and STS literature and existing REX systems, this paper highlights a pervasive tendency within REX to analyze disasters from a top-down perspective, which may black box the crisis actors inputs and the incidents analysis. Taking a reverse approach, through a participatory design process (based on interviews, participatory observations and focus groups), this project invents a bottom-up REX platform with crisis actors (REX users) at the Belgian level. Once produced, returns of experience documents are diffused on this platform to prompt collective learning from previous crises and increase our sociotechnical system’s preparedness and resilience. Finally, building on the participatory design process, the present paper discusses stakes, potential advantages and pitfalls that such an engaging and shared platform entails.
"Bio-bordering" in the EU and the surveillance of "non-publics"
The article proposes the notion of "bio-bordering" to focus on recent transnational surveillance regimes targeting criminalized (non)citizens based on biometric technologies used at and across borders.
The article proposes the notion of "bio-bordering" to focus on recent transnational surveillance regimes targeting criminalized (non)citizens based on biometric technologies used at and across borders. Its approach is influenced by the analytical repertoire of science and technology studies as well as critical surveillance studies. We exemplary introduce the transnational DNA data exchange system regulated under the Prüm decisions, an EU-based transnational network for the exchange of DNA profile data which aims to combat cross-border crime and terrorism. The empirical illustration serves to portray multiple de- and re-bordering processes along nation states' bio-borders. We discuss how our conceptual proposition of making invisible bio-borders visible helps to understand, first, the implications of de-bordering processes on the normalization of transnational surveillance through automated biometric database systems. Second, it sheds light on how multiple de- and re-bordering processes create surveillance systems of heterogeneous "non-publics" being differently targeted by data protection policies and criminal investigation practices and with unevenly distributed and ambivalent access to exercise their rights. Such "non-publics" emerge from the asymmetrically permeable bio-borders enabling the (non)exchange of categories mapping groups and individuals ranging from suspects and convicted offenders to missing persons and relatives of missing persons.
Hacking the shelter: infrastructural “counter publics” and the management of forced migration
This article examines hacker technologies that aim to expand subversive infrastructural publics to German refugee shelters and camps, focusing particularly on wireless internet access and network surveillance.
Since the summer of 2015, European hacker collectives have included issues of forced migration to their political agenda and technological projects. Conceptualised by STS scholars as enacting “counter publics” or “recursive publics” (Kelty 2008), the critical purchase of alternative technologies and infrastructures has yet to be examined in light of contemporary border regimes.
Therefore, this article examines hacker technologies that aim to expand subversive infrastructural publics to German refugee shelters and camps, focusing particularly on wireless internet access and surveillance. My point of departure is an ethnographic case study of “Freifunk”, a free mesh network initiative whose participants provide anonymised internet access to over 350 refugees shelters and receptions centres in Germany. The empirical data is gathered through participant observation and interviews with activists, social workers, and migrants, covering the negotiation of how wireless equipment is installed, configured, and cared for. First, the material makes visible how Freifunk manages to publically problematize ongoing forms of sociotechnical neglect and counter attempts at surveillance. Secondly, it highlights the asymmetries and unintended consequences and the need to learn from everyday infrastructural practices already employed by forced migrants. Together, both aspects open the discussion on how STS research can conceptually and methodologically account for the expansion of infrastructural “counter publics” to domains of forced migration.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.