Little tags, ordered worlds and invisible infrastructures
Susanne Oechsner (University of Vienna)
Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
The capacity of identifying and tracking objects through small “radio-frequency identification tags” attached to them, the invisible infrastructure of circulation and control which emerges through this, and the ways in which this reorders human and non-human worlds will be the focus of our paper.
Paper long abstract:
The "Internet of things" has become a powerful future imaginary with Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) being a core enabling-technology. The capacity of identifying and tracking objects through small "RFID tags" attached to them without visible connection, the invisible infrastructure of circulation and control which emerges through this, as well as the ways in which all this reorders "the world of things" and many other spheres along with it will be at the core of our paper. We will offer a study on how researchers, developers and tag producers imagine the potential of this technology to form a well-functioning infrastructure, how they script the human and non-human actors and how they standardize and classify them. We will trace how the implementation of RFID in specific fields is both imagining as putting in place a specific technological order and with it simultaneously realizing a specific social and moral order. We will show how "the problem to be solved" gets constructed and how this in turn justifies a specific "technological solution"; identify the different values that are mobilised as well as those silenced in staging the problem-solution packages; analyse the human-technology relations that are performed; and finally, reflect on the role classification and standardization plays in all this. This presentation builds on data from a "RFID & Society" project which is part of the larger FFG-funded project REFlex (Coordinator: Holger Arthaber, TU Vienna) which develops a localization system of passive RFID tags for an intelligent process control system.
Infrastructures, subjects, politics