Lecture by Annalisa Pelizza, Paris IAS fellow, within the framework of the seminar INTERACT
This talk presents results and expectations of a long-term research trajectory on data infrastructures and governance trasformation. The trajectory – which I called “Vectorial Glance” (Pelizza, 2016) – started in 2013 thanks to a European Marie Curie Fellowship, and continues today with the new project “Processing Citizenship” (2017-2022), recently funded by the European Research Council. The overarching aim of the Vectorial Glance is to rethink the relationship between data infrastructures and polities – be they states or Europe – through the performative tools of Science and Technology Studies (STS), and in particular those of the French sociology of translation.
The initial question – how do information infrastructures shape the order of modern polities? – is addressed by accounting for a case in which a minor technical component in a population registry architecture has shifted functions and responsibilities from the local to the national level of government. Drawing on this example, the “Vectorial Glance” is introduced, as a research framework that looks at the technical minutiae of information systems as strategic sites where broader shifts in the order of governance can become visible.
By introducing a performative approach proper to the sociology of translation, we argue that data infrastructures not only traverse administrative and governmental borders, but they can reconstitute polities along different boundaries. This argument will be exemplified against the case of knowledge asymmetries between civil service and contractors enacted by software as “interessement device”.
The state, however, is not the only polity that can be “performed”. Also Europe is currently re-enacted by multiple infrastructures for data collection, elaboration and sharing. Introducing the “Processing Citizenship” project, we will set the stage to scale performative analysis of polities from the nation-state to the European milieu. If historically information infrastructures have contributed to the formation of the most powerful techno-social assemblage for knowledge handling – the nation-state, how do contemporary data infrastructures shape the emerging European order?
This is the main research question that informs the “Processing Citizenship” project. We call “citizenship processing” the material practices through which individuals and polities are co-produced with the mediation of data infrastructures for third-country nationals (i.e., migrants, refugees, asylum seekers) identification and registration.
After a discussion of the project goals and research questions, we will openly address some methodological gaps and issues related to the analysis of computational “texts” like ontologies, algorithms and web-services.