Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Association for the Anthropology of Policy
Cosponsored by: Central States Anthropological Society
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Citizenship
Government databases, digital archives, on line voting systems, and e-portals enabling us to submit e.g. insurance claims or tax paperwork increasingly defines mundane engagements between citizens and the suite of public and private players defining social arenas. Because of affordances such as efficiency and transparency attributed to digital technology, implementation of these infrastructures has become widely supported on the ground. At the same time, sociopolitical structures and assumptions encoded in many of these infrastructures—and the entanglements they produce—have received little attention. The tendency of infrastructure to remain invisible until something goes wrong is perhaps especially acute in digital and high-tech contexts where the scale, technological complexity, and physical diffusion encourages black boxing. By putting the politics and poetics of digital infrastructure into the limelight, this panel will consider the historical and ethnographic dimensions of digital infrastructures and how they produce individual subjectivities, mediate power relationships and further existing reifications of the social across the globe. By bringing the theoretical insights of the burgeoning anthropology of infrastructure and bureaucracy to bear on the digital networks and assemblages, the papers in this panel endeavor to make the materiality, social-embeddedness, and historical contingency of digital infrastructure visible.