University of Lisbon, Portugal, 1-4 September 2019
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Panel 707: UACES Research Network Panel: INTERSECT Panel: The Political Theory of Security Technologies
UACES Research Network Panel: INTERSECT Panel: The Political Theory of Security Technologies
This panels crosses different branches of literature to explore theoretical aspects of the security-technology interplay in Europe. It gathers contributions from Science and Technology Studies, critical security studies, and critical criminology, and it engages with concepts such as socio-technical imaginaries, ontological security, and surveillance society, among others. This panel is part of the UACES Research Network INTERSECT.
Presentations of the Symposium
Understanding the Politics and Meaning of Security Technologies – what do we Think they are for, what do we Think they can do?
Understanding the particular trajectories and contingencies of military technology development has long been a central task for scholars of warfare and security. With that said, this work has often treated technology as a peculiarly exogenous factor – seeking to measure its efficacy or strategic impact, but not interrogating the reasons for its development or prominence. Critical security scholars have, in recent years, addressed this externalising of technology in various ways - for example, through risk and governance approaches. There is, of course, still a great deal of work to be done - both empirically and theoretically/conceptually.
This paper aims to make a contribution to the theoretical development of technology and security studies. In the paper, I endeavour to unpack some issues that are contained within the questions “what is technology for?” and “what does technology do?” with reference to security and political violence.
Turning to STS approaches, particularly those associated with the theory of sociotechnical imaginaries, but also the work of Feenberg, I argue that STS approaches provide a powerful means to interrogate how military and security technologies often are seen as both the means and ends for political and normative agendas. These approaches, I argue, will contribute to security studies understanding of politics (and contingency) of and through technology.
In the paper, I discuss the value of sociotechnical imaginaries as a means to understand the ways in which ideas, visions and imaginaries about both how the world is, and how it ought to be, shape the development of military technologies and security practices more broadly. Using selected examples, I hope to demonstrate the theoretical utility of these STS approaches for security studies and IR more broadly.
Panopticon, Pre-crime & Power - Considerations on the Future of the Predictive Policing Assemblage in the EU
This paper examines the role of technology in fundamentally changing the nature of policing in contemporary societies, with a particular focus on how technological advances in the fields of machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and algorithmic automated decision systems (ADS) are affecting policing transnationally, across the European Union. The paper deploys a theoretical and conceptual framework that borrows heavily from Michel Foucault, governmentality studies, and assemblage theory, in order to examine the political and societal implications of the dissemination of such technologies, and to provide a critical reading of the power relations and dangers inherent in such schemes of “governing through security”. By examining the role of the EU (especially through its Horizon 2020 financing initiatives) in embracing the predictive policing assemblage and disseminating it, and by looking at two case studies (the use of the POL-INTEL platform by Denmark, and the Crime Anticipation System in the Netherlands), as well as discussing the fight against terrorism across the EU as a driver of change, the paper examines 3 interrelated trends currently unfolding in the European policing field as a result: (i) the rise of the rise of what scholars have termed the surveillance society (Garland, Lyons) or the “transparent society” (Byung Chul Han) and its effects on blurring of the public-private divide (including both the transformation of the notion of privacy but also, more concretely, the rise of private corporate authority in policing, via software development and training, consultancy, etc.), (ii) the political, legal and societal implications of this assemblage for advancing a "pre-crime” mode of policing, and (iii) how, within such putatively neutral & technical data-driven modes of operation, a series of bias (racial, religious, and socio-economic) often goes unrecognised.
Sociotechnical Imaginaries in the EU’s Security Research Programme
For the key actors in the EU security socio-political system, how is EU’s security and defence imagined? What are the scope, boundaries and discourse around what the EU’s security should become? The chapter applies Jasanoff and Kim’s concept of sociotechnical imaginaries to the study of the evolution of security R&D carried out in the European Union. The research makes sense of the myriad ways in which ‘scientific and technological visions enter into the assemblages of materiality, meaning, and morality that constitute robust forms of social life’, in concrete in the ecosystem of EU security and defence.
An analytical concept within the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), sociotechnical imaginaries focus on the interplays between agency and structure in the imagination of the future. In other words, they describe how ‘visions of scientific and technological progress carry with them implicit ideas about public purposes, collective futures, and the common good’ (Jasonoff and Kim 2015). The chapter endorses an understanding of science and social order as being co-constitutive and analyses the EU’s increasing engagement with security-related technology research, from the 2007-2013 Framework Programme 7 to the current Defence Research Fund.
Competing Visions of Security: The EU, NATO and the Concept of Hybrid Threats
This paper focuses on ‘hybrid threats’ – a concept that has been around since the late 2000s and is often used by NATO or EU officials/specialists as a buzzword to refer to a new and complex security environment that come with a new set of threats. To explore the ways in which these two organisations conceptualised hybrid threats, the paper will scrutinise the claims made by the EU and NATO officials regarding the changing nature of the security and threats, and explore the conditions under which the concept of 'hybrid threats' emerged, was produced and reproduced in the EU and NATO discourse together with the recommended or ’appropriate’ policy responses. To this end, it will focus on NATO and the EU’s efforts to rewrite the rules of the game in the sphere of security by imposing an experimental and deliberately vague narrative on how security should be viewed and maintained through a “comprehensive and multilateral approach”. The paper will also analyse the current diagnostic framework generated by security experts and expose the regime of truth created through a discourse analysis of NATO and EU documents to potentially contribute to the literature on resilience and security.
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