Reshuffling the Government Machine. Digital Infrastructures of Bureaucratic Exclusion
(University of Twente)
Paper short abstract:
This paper asks how it has happened, that government – a bureaucratic organization built to manage information – has turned to have the least skills in doing so. It provides an STS explanation of how government infrastructures have turned to exclude public servants, while including contractors.
Paper long abstract:
This paper asks the question: how has it happened, that government - the bureaucratic organization that was built to manage information - has turned to be conceived as having the least skills in information handling, to the point that similar activities have been mainly taking over by non-governmental actors? Drawing upon the STS concept of "interessement device", this paper focuses on some ways in which government information infrastructures have paradoxically turned to exclude public servants - depicted as digitally illiterate - from their ganglia. On the one hand, it argues that - while being framed as "technical expertise" - with digitization the new skills needed to handle digitally-mediated governmental information have been built in a way that they excluded bureaucratic and legislative knowledge and gave priority to ICT development jargon. On the other hand, the paper shows how information infrastructures themselves can operate as interessement devices that exclude civil servants while they include private contractors' operators, and vice-versa. It presents as diverse cases as the Netherlands' cadastre and Italy's online platform for business declarations towards the public administration. Eventually, this new configuration of actors and roles entails a number of concerns about the political legitimation of those operators that can not only access governmental data, but can also take sensitive decisions about how they are categorized, sorted and distributed.
Infrastructures, subjects, politics