Data infrastructures are now important to many domains of commercial, governmental and everyday activity, with consequences that demand critical attention. Papers consider how power is enacted/ resisted, privacy intruded on/ protected and the outcomes of digitally-enabled governance regimes.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Knowing the whole: personal identification number as statistical infrastructure
The personal identification number is designed to describe the whole population. In this paper, I trace the 'problem subjects' enacted by the different features and limitations of the number, and I show how it brings into being the population it sets out to identify.
The personal identification number (PIN) is essential for the everyday functions of Nordic welfare states. As the number is unique to each individual, it allows different state-held registers to be linked to one another to produce a wide variety of data about the population, and it plays a role in nearly all transactions between the state and its subjects. It is also a key component of the population register, which holds census information on all citizens and residents. In this sense, it acts as statistical infrastructure which makes it possible for the state to know and govern.
Building on the notion of governmentality, specifically the necessity to know a population to be able to govern it, as well recent STS scholarship on how methods enact the very realities they set out to describe, I analyse the personal identification number and surrounding data practices. I focus on the ambition to describe a totality, that is, the whole population, and how this description is made possible by indexing using the date of birth. I detail the technologies that sustain the number, and I trace the 'problem subjects' enacted by the different features and limitations of the PIN, such as the binary encoding of gender in odd and even numbers, and the necessity to assign a date of birth even when the exact date is unknown. By attending to the technical details of the number and their consequences, I show how the PIN brings into being the population it sets out to identify.
The state of the future? E-stonia and the techno-utopian commodification of identity in the digital age
The "E-stonia" model of e-governance and now e-residency promises a new vision of digital statecraft and a radical alternative to the international system. But this digital future of "government as a service" reflects Estonia's post-Soviet past and its capitalist, Silicon Valley-inspired present.
If analog governments and techno-utopians eager to mimic the "E-stonia" model are to be believed, e-governance and e-residency embody nothing less than a new vision of virtual statecraft and a radical alternative to the existing international system. In Estonia, the so-called digital society mediates nearly every interaction with the state: citizen-users can vote, access health records, file taxes, sign documents, and open a business from any laptop or smartphone from anywhere in the world, thanks to the ostensible security of blockchain technology.
With the launch of e-residency in 2014, this model of "government as a service" has been expanded to 20,000 people from 138 countries who have started over 3,000 new companies in Estonia, with access to the EU market. To technophiles and capitalists alike, e-residency promises "a new digital nation for global citizens, powered by the Republic of Estonia" - and crucially, taxed by it too. In doing so, Estonia seeks to "reboot the state" for a world of "countries without borders", turning governments into start-ups and citizens into consumers.
E-stonia embodies the power of technology to make states more efficient and responsive, but it is also the culmination of the existing neoliberal vision of a world that remains truly borderless only for the powerful. Like all visions of the future, it says more about the past and the present - both Estonia's struggle to craft a coherent post-Soviet history and national identity, and its embrace of Silicon Valley ideology as a techno-utopian vision of the future.
Economies of appearances: information technology and the management of (in)visibility in the Brazilian Amazon
The paper draws upon an on-going study of the technologically mediated management of Amazonian deforestation. Focusing on its sociotechnical apparatuses of visibility it seeks to explore and highlight how the various labours of making-(in)visible are actually performed and with what consequences.
It is by now commonplace, that Atlantic Modernity routinely seeks solutions for problems of social order and organization in technologies of visibility.
There is an already large, and growing, body of work that seeks to understand how various such technologies of 'visibility' (whether this is glossed as "transparency" or its evil twin "surveillance") emerge as self-evident solutions to problems of manage-ability. The satellite en-visioning of Amazonia is instructive in this respect. In many ways the 'jungle' appears to stand, literally as well as metaphorically, as the Other of Order and Organization. It can be rendered manageable only insofar as its opacity is penetrated and is made transparent in particular ways. At the same time, there is a need to focus on how envisioning technologies function in practice rather than merely on how they are supposed to function. That is to say, to study institutional visibility and transparency in terms of situated performances; as products of specific, potentially unstable, sociomaterial configurations of instruments, practices and counter-practices. Particular 'visibility regimes' typically make their objects visible in some ways but not in others. Anthropologists have used the term "unknowledge" (Mathews, 2011) to describe such present absences: specific forms of intimate local and organizational knowledge which must as it were, be kept out of sight in order to ensure the success of particular organizing projects and systematizations.
In data we trust? Negotiating data assemblages in the implementation of Brazil's climate targets
The paper describes the dilemmas faced in the process of transitioning between two networks of trust: a well-established "data assemblage" (Kitchin, 2014) shared by the scientific community, and governmental data assemblage that contained representations that at first were at odds with the former.
In this paper we are interested in exploring the role of data between different societal actors. In particular, we are interested why people trust (or mistrust) data and how this is performed. The focus of the paper will be in the development of the agriculture, forestry and land-use (AFOLU) component of a research project led by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication (MCTIC) used in the implementation of Brazil's mitigation targets to the Paris Agreement. Here a group of established researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) faced the challenge of working within a governance structure that required the use of officially endowed data at the expense of data sets used by the international academic community. The paper describes the dilemmas faced by the UFMG group in the process of transitioning between two networks of trust: a well-established "data assemblage" (Kitchin, 2014) shared by the UFMG group and its international peers, and an official data assemblage that contained representations that at first were at odds with the former. From this the paper asks how different actors (re)negotiate trust relationships with climate data assemblages.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.