Unpacking infrastructural power: on the material underpinnings of digital tracking

introducing: Stine Lomborg is keynote speaker at TA23

Stine Lomborg is one of the two keynote speakers at this year's TA23 Technology Assessment Conference in Vienna in June. In her keynote entitled "Unpacking infrastructural power: on the material underpinnings of digital tracking" she refers to the material backend infrastructure of digital communication systems and what impact infrastructural power can have.

"Today, digital tracking is standard operating procedure across the digital platforms that most of the world’s population use on an everyday basis. Digital tracking, e.g. through web cookies or sensor-based technologies, can be used for a vast array of purposes, including functionality and service optimization, surveillance, and new technological developments, and it serves a critical role in generating data to train machine learning models and other developments in AI. In this talk, I relate digital tracking to the backend material infrastructure of digital communication systems. I demonstrate that digital tracking enables the exercise of a specific kind of power, infrastructural power, which refers to the ability to exert control over the material underpinnings of an ecosystem. I suggest that infrastructural power is a foundational and increasingly important companion to other forms of power exercised in digital communication systems, and sketch ways to unpack its operational logics for the critical study of big tech and the political economy of data."

Stine Lomborg is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Copenhagen. She studies the role of media in everyday life and in broader social processes and contexts with focus on digital tracking and datafication. Her work addresses the meaning and implications of digital tracking and data-driven decisions for people and societies.