Nika Mahnič (QMUL) - 2020-21 Students

Programmable infrastructures and state de-formation

Before becoming a state recognized for its digital government efforts, the UK was known for its ineffective and costly IT schemes. My PhD project aims to uncover the importance of this (in)effectiveness for state power, as well as changed notions of authority. The proprietary nature of programmable infrastructures (computational infrastructures such as data centres, network infrastructure and devices deployed within ‘common’ infrastructures) holds the policy reform and structural change of the public sector in the domain of the private sector, and my project will try to understand how this public/private distinction helps us understand governance and state de-formation.

My project aims to better understand the role of programmable infrastructures, as well as decision support algorithms, in the machinery of the state. This requires an understanding of the role of government information technology in state formation, coupled with an empirical study of the role of computational infrastructures in changing state power. The institution of my interest is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its predecessors; however, I will also point out some general patterns recognisable in other government departments, such as the (mis)recognition of the value of data and IT in welfare state (trans)formation. This will be a historically-informed PhD project, focused on how policies, regulatory shifts and technology limitations may have contributed to the current adoption of proprietary data-driven government IT, or algorithmic governance.

Primary supervisor: Dr Elke Schwarz, QMUL
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Kimberly Hutchings, QMUL

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