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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.
This chapter explores the concept of market infrastructure, which is tentatively defined as a materially heterogeneous arrangement that silently supports and structures…
This chapter explores the concept of market infrastructure, which is tentatively defined as a materially heterogeneous arrangement that silently supports and structures the consummation of market exchanges. Specifically, the authors investigate the enactment of market infrastructure in the US grocery retail sector by exploring how barcodes and related devices contributed to modify its market infrastructure during the period 1967–2010. Combining this empirical case with insights from previous research, the authors propose that market infrastructures are relational, available for use, modular, actively maintained, interdependent, commercial, emergent and political. The authors argue that this conception of market infrastructure provides a powerful tool for unveiling the complex agencements and engineering efforts that underpin seemingly superficial, individual and isolated market exchanges.
The digital and material traceability of our interactions in organizations are nowadays the subject of very advanced analyses through tools known as social media analytics…
The digital and material traceability of our interactions in organizations are nowadays the subject of very advanced analyses through tools known as social media analytics (SMA). As thinking (infrastructure), SMA tools constitute objects to think of our digitally mediated interactions with. It produces a substratum (a new meaning) that would not exist otherwise, and enacts different types of reasoning that hypothetically influence community managers’ or members’ sensemaking of digitally mediated interactions. This chapter proposes to look behind the curtain of charts and graphs, in order to highlight the performativity of the interactions between the different machines and the traces of our digitally mediated interactions. Drawing on a detailed analysis of the fabric of SMA, this chapter highlights the explanatory power of a communication perspective on types of reasoning enacted by thinking infrastructures. First, considering the SMA tool as an editorial enunciation allows us to see it as a process implying several beings (e.g. machines, humans and logs) that are not without consequences. Second, we show that these beings have different modalities of interactions with each other, and that these modalities of interactions influence the materiality of the digital traces of past interactions. Third, throughout the process, we demonstrate the fragility and variability of their materiality. Finally, faced with the rise of a technological deterministic discourse, which tends to portray the exploitation of our digital traces as an objective way of representing the collaborative practices that make up the organization, our research aims, on the contrary, to demonstrate their relativity.
Whereas many researchers have examined the way in which health institutions have been transformed through funding modalities, and particularly through prospective payment…
Whereas many researchers have examined the way in which health institutions have been transformed through funding modalities, and particularly through prospective payment systems (PPS), few have investigated the architecture of these systems, that is, costs and cost variance. Focusing on the study of costs and on the production of hospital rates, this chapter shows that the French PPS, called “rate per activity” made possible what we call a policy of variance. For health policymakers, the aim was to make the different accounting figures between hospitals, and between ways of practising healthcare, visible, in order to reduce these variances. This policy was attended by uncertainty in the processes of quantification, which led to metrological controversies. As a consequence of the issues around the way of calculating costs, some accounts and calculations were redone. In this chapter, we consider the case of metrological controversy over the remuneration of costs for cystic fibrosis patients’ hospital stays, and over the action of a patient organization that criticized the costs calculated officially. It leads to the analysis of the way calculative infrastructures, as cost accounting and rates, are challenged, and how some actors try to stabilize them.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, transparency became a rhetorical token used to provide a solution to financial problems. This study examines how…
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, transparency became a rhetorical token used to provide a solution to financial problems. This study examines how transparency materialized in the context of the European securitization industry, which was largely blamed for the credit crunch. The authors show that although transparency was broadly associated with a political call for financial system reform, in the European securitization industry it provided the basis on which to repurpose its market infrastructure. The authors introduce the concept of transparency work to show that transparency is a market achievement organized as a standardization network of heterogeneous actors aiming at establishing a new calculative infrastructure for managing credit risk. Combining insights from information infrastructure research and Economic Sociology, the authors contribute to a distributed and networked understanding of information infrastructure development.
Through the example of a “regulatory ranking” – an index produced with the aim to regulate the pharmaceutical market by pushing companies in the direction of providing…
Through the example of a “regulatory ranking” – an index produced with the aim to regulate the pharmaceutical market by pushing companies in the direction of providing greater access to medicine in developing countries – this chapter focuses on indexing and ranking as infrastructural processes which inscribe global problem spaces as unfolding actionable territories for market intervention. It foregrounds the “Indexal thinking” which structures and informs regulatory rankings – their aspiration to align the interests of different stakeholders and to entice competition among the ranked companies. The authors detail the infrastructural work through which such ambitions are enacted, detailing processes of infrastructural layering/collage and patchwork through which analysts naturalize/denaturalize various contested categories in the ranking’s territory. They reflect on the consequences of such attempts at reconfiguring global topologies for the problems these governance initiatives seek to address.
This chapter explores the ways in which a large-scale accounting system, known as Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting and Compliance, contributes to the construction…
This chapter explores the ways in which a large-scale accounting system, known as Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting and Compliance, contributes to the construction and organization of a new market for recreational cannabis in the US state of Colorado. Mobilizing the theoretical lenses provided by the literature on market devices, on the one hand, and infrastructure, on the other hand, the authors identify and unpack a changing relationship between accounting and state control through which accounting and markets unfold. The authors describe this movement in terms of a distinction between knowing devices and thinking infrastructures. In the former, the authors show that regulators and other authorities perform the market by making it legible for the purpose of intervention, taxation and control. In the latter, thinking infrastructures, an ecology of interacting devices is made and remade by a variety of intermediaries, disclosing the boundaries and possibilities of the market, and constituting both opportunities for innovation and domination through “protocol.”
While digital platforms tend to be unproblematically presented as the infrastructure of the sharing economy – as matchmakers of supply and demand – the authors argue that…
While digital platforms tend to be unproblematically presented as the infrastructure of the sharing economy – as matchmakers of supply and demand – the authors argue that constituting the boundaries of infrastructures is political and performative, that is, it is implicated in ontological politics, with consequences for the distribution of responsibilities (Latour, 2003; Mol, 1999, 2013; Woolgar & Lezaun, 2013). Drawing on an empirical case study of Uber, including an analysis of court cases, the authors investigate the material-discursive production of digital platforms and their participation in the reconfiguring of the world (Barad, 2007), and examine how the (in)visibility of the digital infrastructure is mobilized (Larkin, 2013) to this effect. The authors argue that the representation of Uber as a “digital platform,” as “just the technological infrastructure” connecting car drivers with clients, is a political act that attempts to redefine social responsibilities, while obscuring important dimensions of the algorithmic infrastructure that regulates this socioeconomic practice. The authors also show how some of these (in)visibilities become exposed in court, and some of the boundaries reshaped, with implications for the constitution of objects, subjects and their responsibilities. Thus, while thinking infrastructures do play a role in regulating and shaping practice through algorithms, it could be otherwise. Thinking infrastructures relationally decentre digital platforms and encourage us to study them as part of ongoing and contested entanglements in practice.