Välkomna till seminariet med Anne Kaun från Södertörns högskola.
On Prisons, Welfare Service Centers, and Public Libraries: Interfaces and Backends of the Digital Welfare State
Abstract In this talk, I bring together empirical explorations of institutions at the margins of the digital welfare state, namely the prison, welfare service centers and public libraries. These institutions emerge as interfaces and backends of the digital welfare state. That means they are often the first and sometimes only entry point for marginalized people with the welfare state. Many people interacting with the digital welfare state through these interfaces are newly arrived migrants, economically and socially marginalized as well as people with a learning disability. These institutions undergird invisibly many of the operations of digitalization as large-scale, societal infrastructure project. Through extensive archival and ethnographic work, I explore the prison, welfare service centers and public libraries as constitutive of the digitalization of the welfare state, which has been a stated goal since the first introduction of computers in public administration in the 1970s.
While often neglected in contemporary debates and future visions of welfare that is powered by digital data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, these institutions constitute important pillars and avenues of the governance reform that is the digital welfare state. Their significance emerges in their role for testbedding (surveillance technologies in prisons), maintaining (welfare service centers promoting digital services) and ‘care work’ (public libraries helping digitally excluded to navigate the digital public administration) digital technologies for welfare provision.
In this talk, I elaborate on the specific character of these spaces, relying on approaches from postcolonial theory, critical design studies as well as science and technology studies, while analytically drawing the contours of the emergent digital welfare state that is currently often presented in relation to the revolutionary potential of algorithmic automation and artificial intelligence, but that was and is grounded in places rarely connected with emergent technologies. Following institutions that are in the margins of yet central to the digital welfare state allows to debunk dominant myths of its efficiency and fairness and reveals that it continues to be based on inequalities and exclusions.
Om Anne Kaun Anne Kaun är professor i medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap vid Södertörns högskola och forskar om bl.a. medieaktivism, mediepraktiker, algoritmer, automatisering och artificiell intelligens. Läs mer: https://www.sh.se/kontakt/forskare/anne-kaun