The Digital State
AbstractThe course examines the new responsibilities and obligations of state actors as they implement IT systems. It explores how public bodies use and store data, questions the line between public and private companies, and explores political and ethical questions of infrastructure and responsibility during public digitization initiatives.
DescriptionDenmark is at the forefront of public digitalization with profound consequences for public institutions and citizens. In the years to come the importance of digitalization is only likely to increase. To be able to analyze and reflect on some of the complex challenges of public sector digitalization, this course draws on ethnographic studies and theoretical frameworks from Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, and Organisational studies. The course will be focused on a range of case studies of public digitalization. It covers topics such as the digitalization and its effects, the digital state in everyday life, motivations for digitization, comparisons of state digitalization initiatives, as well as successful and failed public digitizalization projects.
This course requires a good level of reading ability in the English language, and the capacity to analyse and synthesize texts. You need to have taken and passed a course that demands reading of 2 academic articles per week. While you do not need to have encountered any particular theories before, a grounding in social science ways of analysing and writing will be useful.
Intended learning outcomes
After the course, the student should be able to:
- Describe and reflect on historic changes occurring in how states organise information
- Compare digitalization initiatives in a global perspective
- Analyse and participate in ongoing research into the digitisation of Scandinavian states and the Danish state in particular
- Reflect on discourses of innovation through the lenses of transparency, accountability and responsibility
- Theorise new spaces where state and non-state actors intersect
The course is exclusively based on readings, seminar discussions and workshop exercises. Workshop exercises include debates, group presentations, consultancy scenarios, poster making, document analysis, postcard making and analysis. There will be some guest lectures. However, you will be expected to do the class reading before class, using worksheets, and be prepared to share your perspective on the reading, ask questions and participate in active discussion and debate, exercises and demonstrations.
Syllabus from 2020 (subject to updates for 2021)
1. The Digital State in Everyday Life
Implementing digital public services often relies on a number of existing infrastructures, and digitisation changes the baseline for citizen engagement with the state. In this introductory theme, we look at the history of state relationships to data and information, and early attempts to digitise public services and their concomitant normative cultural imaginaries of connectivity and futurity.
Literature February 5th
Scott, James C. 1995. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed Yale University Press. Excerpts: Introduction, Chapter 2 and – optionally – Conclusion.
McQuillan, Dan. 2016. “Algorithmic paranoia and the convivial alternative” Big Data and Society 2016: 1-12 doi: 10.1177/2053951716671340
Literature February 12th
Jasanoff, Sheila. 2004. “Ordering Knowledge, Ordering Society” in States of Knowledge: The Co-production of science and social order ed. Sheila Jasanoff, London and New York: Routledge, pp.13-46.
Krogness, Karl Jakob. 2011. “Numbered Individuals, Digital Traditions, and Individual Rights: Civil Status Registration in Denmark 1645-2010” in Ritsumeikan Law Review 28, 87-126.
2. Motivations for Digitisation
Why does digitisation make so much sense to the state? What makes it desirable, and what visions motivate it? In this theme we examine topics such as Transparency and efficiency We examine the making of the Danish Digitsation Strategies, look historically at changes in attitudes and policy, and learn how to understand policy documents in their political contexts.
Literature February 19th
Hjelholt, Morte and Jannick Schou. 2017. “Digital Lifestyles Betwen Solidarity, Discipline and Neoliberalism: On the Historical Transformations of the Danish IT Political Field from 1994 to 2016” tripleC 15(1): 370-389.
Data as Relation Research Project Launch. 9th March, 2017. IT University of Copenhagen. Jens Krieger Røyen, Head of Office at the Agency of Digitisation, and Judith Simon, Professor at the Univesrity of Hamburg.
Literature February 26th
Wedel, Janine R., Cris Shore, Gregory Feldman and Stacy Lathrop. 2005. “Toward an Anthropology of Public Policy” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 600:30. http://doi. 10.1177/0002716205276734
Danish Government. 2016. Digital Strategy “ A Stronger and More Secure Digital Denmark” Agency for Digtisation, Copenhagen Denmark. Pp 4-14.
3. Technologies of Digitisation
A wide range of technologies constitute how information is organised. What is digitisation moving from and towards? How are existing ways of studying the state changed or complicated by a shift in practices? What does this mean for power relations?
Literature March 4th
Zuboff, S. 2015. Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of Information Technology 30: 75-89.
Jørgensen, Bastian and Christopher Gad.“The Algorithm in SKAT” Draft Article, prepared for Data as Relation, November 8-9th 2017.
Literature March 11th
Flyverbom, Mikkel and John Murray. 2018. Datastructuring–Organizing and curating digital traces into action. Big Data and society July-December 2018: 1-12. Doi: 10.1177/2053951718799114
Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. “The Demise of Forgetting – and its drivers” in Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. Princeton University Press, 2011.
4. Global Comparisons
This theme draws on cases from different countries to explore how different digitisation initiaties encounter distinct opportunities and concerns. We look at Denmark, India, China and the USA . The examples share a biomedical focus, thinking about what and who people are in relation to their states, and how digitisation practices impact and are shaped by existing assumptions about identity, nationhood, and privacy.
Literature March 18th
Bauer, Susanne. 2014. “From Administrative Infrastructure to Biomedical Resource: Danish Population Registries, the ‘Scandinavian Laboratory’ and the ‘Epidemiologist’s Dream’. Science in Context 27(2):187-2013.
Jayaram, Malavika. “A Tale of Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies and Faking Identities” The Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society, May 14, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9AMYjQRJDY
Literature March 25th
Amoore, Louise. 2006. “Biometric Borders: Governing mobilities in the war on terror” Political Geography 25:336-351. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2006.02.001
Krishna, Shyam and Yingqin Zheng. 2018. “Many eyed monsters and their lure: Surveillance, seduction and governmentality.” International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Working Group 8.2, Living with Monsters conference, San Francisco December 2018.
5. Studying the Scandinavian State
Trust is a central theme in scholarship on Scandinavian engagements with the State. It is also central to digitisation strategies. What is trust? How is it threatened? These examples in Theme 5 focus on the political dimensions of how and where trusting relations are generated.
Literature April 1st
Markussen, Randi, Lorena Ronquillo and Carsten Schürmann. 2014. “Trust in Internet Election: Oberving the Norwegian Decryption and Counting Ceremony” International Conference on Electronic Voting
Anne Kathrine Vadgaard Nielsen “ The Election Machine”, PhD thesis, .IT University of Copenhagen. Extract.
Literature April 15th
Valtysson, Bjarki. 2014. “Democracy in disguise: the use of social media in reviewing the Icelandic Constitution” Media, Culture & society 36(1):52-68.
Maguire, James and Brit Ross Winthereik. Locating Data: Data Centres and the State. Draft prepared for Data as Relation, November 8-9th 2017.
Student Activity BudgetEstimated distribution of learning activities for the typical student
- Preparation for lectures and exercises: 30%
- Lectures: 10%
- Assignments: 10%
- Exam with preparation: 10%
- Other: 40%
Ordinary examExam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
C11: Submission of written work
Students will submit a 15 page individually authored exam which responds to one mandatory question and one question selected from four options.