Avec Annalisa Pelizza, Paris Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Twente (NL)

Mercredi 7 juin 2017, 17h30 à 19h

Institut des sciences de la communication
20 rue Berbier-du-Mets, Paris 13e
Métro 7 « Les Gobelins »


Annalisa Pelizza est professeure associée à l’Université de Twente (Pays Bas) dans le département de sciences, technologie et étude des politiques publiques (STePS). Ses recherches portent sur les STS (Science & Technology Studies), la science de la communication et la théorie politique.
Elle est spécialiste de la gouvernance par les infrastructures de l’information qui affectent les institutions modernes. Entre 2017 et 2022, elle est chercheuse principale du projet « Processing citizenship : Digital registration of migrants as co-production of citizens, territory and Europe », financé par le Conseil européen de la recherche (Horizon 2020, grant agreement 714463). Cette recherche élargit le cadre de son étude sur le « vectorial glance » ("la vision vectorielle", Pelizza 2016) à une analyse du système d’information transgouvernemental européen pour l’enregistrement des migrants.
Annalisa Pelizza a reçu le Best Paper Prize au WikiSym et le Prix de Distinction à Ars Electronica ainsi que d’autres distinctions académiques. Elle est évaluatrice de plusieurs revues scientifiques, dont Information, Communication and Society, Research Policy et Science, Technology and Society.

Séminaire de l’ISCC

Processing Citizenship. Digital registration of migrants as co-production of individuals and Europe

7 juin 2017, 17h30 à 19h, ISCC

Accueil > Recherche > Séminaires réguliers > Séminaire de l’ISCC



This lecture introduces a project that has started in March 2017, titled “Processing Citizenship” (ERC StG No 714463). It is also aimed at contextualizing it in my broader research trajectory, wich I named “Vectorial Glance”.
Amongst the concepts introduced or consistently used by Science and Technology Studies (STS), the notions of “co-production” and “performativity” are probably those that had the largest diffusion. This does not however speak for the capability of the concepts to retain a constant meaning throughout different contexts of use. And indeed, co-production, especially, has almost become a synonym for collaboration of heterogeneous actors. Less superficially, co-production actually refers to the processes through which “natural and social orders are being produced together” (Jasanoff, 2004 : 2). Performativity, on its hand, refers to the epistemological choice to look at how social actors are constituted, brought into existence, instead of a priori assuming essentialist definitions (Butler, 1997, Callon, 1998, Latour, 2005).
Drawing on these concepts, this presentation discusses some literature on technology and state formation, specifically on the performative relationship between population measurement and state (Akrich, 1992, Foucault, 2007, Mitchell, 2002). In particular, it lingers on the relationship between state and information infrastructures (Agar, 2003, Edwards, 2010, Hull, 2013, Mukerji, 2011). These historical cases remind us of the performative principle : information infrastructures are not so much a set of technologies introduced to make bureaucratic activities more efficient and reliable, but – on the contrary – the bureaucratic machine of the state has been built as a response to information handling needs.
I will then briefly introduce my recent work showing how contemporary digital information infrastructures can similarly shape the order of the modern state, either by shifting functions and responsibilities from the local to the national level (Pelizza, 2016), or by creating knowledge asymmetries between civil service and contractors (Pelizza Under review).
The presentation will then try to translate the performative, historical argument to contemporary governance reordering. If analogue information infrastructures contributed to state formation, are digital technologies for data handling contributing to state disassembling, as most literature on globalization seems to suggest ?
While I oppose simplistic and determinist arguments that look at nation states as delegating powers to supra-national organizations, with data infrastructures supporting this process, I nonetheless locate the historical argument on performativity in the context of the multi-level European construction (Schipper and Schot, 2011). This effort allows a more open question : if historically information infrastructures have contributed to the formation of the most powerful techno-social assemblage for knowledge handling – the nation-state, how do contemporary data infrastructures shape the European order ?
This is the main research question that informs the “Processing Citizenship” project. I call “citizenship processing” the material practices through which citizens, polities, and territory are co-produced with the mediation of data infrastructures.
Methodologically, the fact that the research addresses contemporary issues raises two concerns. On one hand, scholars of contemporaneity cannot rely on corpora that are recognized as archives, but have to build them, searching even the most remote and least probable sources. On the other hand, we do not know in advance which form(s) of governance we are heading to. Therefore, either we assume a priori the definition of stabilized entities like “state”, “Europe”, “citizenship”, and accept that we can only trace minor changes in their “nature”, or we pursue the original question, which remains open to not-yet-known orders of governance.
In order to handle these two constraints, I have adopted two methodological decisions. First, together with traditional sociological/anthropological methods like participant observation and interviews, the team will be analysing computational texts. Second, I have adopted a methodological solution proposed by the sociology of translation. In order to trace new formations, we can resort to the opponents of that formation (Latour, 2005). So, instead of looking at how the population and polities of Europe are defined, the project looks at the non-populations : migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, in one word : aliens.
These two methodological choices set the field of investigation for Processing Citizenship : data infrastructures for alien registration and identification. After a discussion of the project goals and research questions, I will openly address some methodological gaps and issues related to the analysis of computational “texts” like ontologies, algorithms and web-services.

Minimal bibliography

AGAR J. (2003). The Government Machine : A revolutionary history of the computer. Cambridge, MA : the MIT Press.
AKRICH M. (1992). “The De-Scription of Technical Objects”. In BIJKER W. E. and LAW J. (eds), Shaping Technology/Building Society : Studies in sociotechnical change. Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, p. 205-224.
BUTLER J. (1997). Excitable Speech : A Politics of Performativity. New York : Routledge.
CALLON M. (1998). “An essay on framing and overflowing : economic externalities revisited by sociology”. The Sociological Review 46(S1) : 244-269.
EDWARDS P. N. (2010). A vast machine : Computer models, climate data, and the politics of global warming. MIT Press.
FOUCAULT M. (2007). Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at th College de France. New York : Palgrave Macmillan.
HULL M. S. (2013). Government of Paper. The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan. University of California Press.
JASANOFF S. (2004). States of knowledge : the co-production of science and the social order. New York : Routledge.
LATOUR B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
MITCHELL T. (2002). Rule of Experts : Egypt, techno-politics, modernity. Univ of California Press.
MUKERJI C. (2011). “Jurisdiction, Inscription, and State Formation. Administrative modernism and knowledge regimes”. Theory and Society 40(3) : 223-245.
PELIZZA A. (2016). “Developing the Vectorial Glance : Infrastructural inversion for the new agenda on governmental information systems”. Science, Technology and Human Values 41(2) : 298-321.
PELIZZA A. (Under review). “Reshuffling the Government Machine. IT knowledge asymmetries as sociomaterial ‘capabilities’”. European Journal of Information Systems.
SCHIPPER F. and SCHOT J. (2011). Infrastructural Europeanism, or the project of building Europe on infrastructures. An introduction. History and Technology 27(3) : 245-264.


Annalisa Pelizza is currently visiting fellow at the Paris Institute of Advanced Studies. She is associate professor in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the University of Twente (NL). She joined Twente as an assistant professor thanks to a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. Annalisa received her PhD in Information Society from the University of Milan Bicocca, and a MA in Media and Communication Studies from the University of Bologna (cum laude). She also worked a project manager and ethnographer with governmental agencies and engineering companies, developing large-scale IT infrastructures.

Annalisa Pelizza works at the intersections of science and technology studies (STS), communication science, and political theory. Her broad research interests are governance by information infrastructures ; performativity of data circulation ; computational methods ; interactive digital art, especially in urban environments ; sociology of translation and semiotics as research methodologies. She has been interested in how information infrastructures bring new (individual and organized) actors into existence, endow technical actors with new political powers, reshuffle the modern order of governance.

Her newest work looks at the transnational information infrastructure for migrant registration and identification – and how this helps to redraw the boundaries between citizens and aliens, Europe and Member States, Euclidean and networked conceptualizations of space. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC Starting Grant “Processing Citizenship : Digital registration of migrants as co-production of citizens, territory and Europe” (2017-2022). The project aims to develop a history of the present that accounts for contemporary materially-embedded practices of registration of migrants at European Hotspots as activities of governance transformation.

Annalisa’s ideas have usually been sustained by excellence-oriented programs, at the European (i.e., Marie Curie and European Research Council), as well as national (e.g., visiting fellowship at the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies, Chancellor’s Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh) levels. She acts as editorial board member and reviewer for various STS, policy and communication science journals, and is active member of international and national STS associations.

Processing Citizenship