Developing the Vectorial Glance: Infrastructural Inversion for the New Agenda on Government Information Systems

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Integrating information systems (IS) has become a key goal for governments worldwide. Systems of “authentic registers,” for instance, provide government agencies with information from databases acknowledged as the only legitimate sources of data. Concerns are thus arising about the risks for democratic accountability constituted by more and more integrated governmental IS. Studies call for a new research agenda that investigates the redistribution of authority and accountability entailed by interoperable IS. This article contributes to this endeavor by suggesting the “vectorial glance” as a research framework that works along two lines. First, by recovering the science and technology studies notion of “infrastructural inversion,” it looks at the technical minutiae of interoperability projects as strategic sites where institutional shifts—and eventually state transformation—can become visible. Second, by defining interoperability as a performative process of boundary reordering, it opens research to the possibility that institutional identities be reconstituted along different lines. Just as vector graphics are based on paths that lead through control points without being bound to underlying pixels, so the vectorial glance runs across boundaries without implicitly assuming that they are immutable and/or a priori relevant for the analysis. This article draws on a case study observed while working at a major project of civil registers integration in Italy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-321
JournalScience, technology & human values
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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