The notion, technologies and organizational elaboration of traceability have become more prominent and more systematic in recent years in many different fields, notably food. This chapter argues that traceability has many faces: it is a programmatic value embedded in norms and regulations; it is a frontier of technology development such as blockchain, and it is a continuous processual and political dynamic of organizational connectedness, leading also to resistance. These different aspects make up “traceability infrastructures,” which embody a number of tensions and dynamics. Three such dynamics are explored in this chapter: the tension between organizational entities and meta-entities, problems of agency and the distribution of responsibility, and dialectics of connectivity and disconnectivity. These three dynamics generate three testable propositions, which define a prolegomena for a new subject of “traceability studies.” Overall, traceability is argued to be an ongoing process of connecting discrete agencies – a process of “chainmaking” – and is formative of more or less stable forms of distributed agency and responsibility.
The author is enormously grateful for the comments and encouragement of Julia Elyachar, Martin Kornberger and Joanne Randa Nucho.
Power, M. (2019), "Infrastructures of Traceability", Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 115-130. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20190000062007
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