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Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities
Research project

CoPol: Covid-19 contact tracing as Digital Politics

CoPol studies Covid-19 contact tracing as digital politics and as data practice on the interfaces between technology, public health and fundamental rights.

A covid-19 dashboard with a large world map in the centre, statistics to the left and right
Screenshot of the Covid-19 dashboard of Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. URL: https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19
Photo:
JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data

Main content

The project claims that the Covid-19 pandemic is a constitutive moment in the evolution of digital politics, where fundamental relations between citizens and states, technologies and institutions are re-configured. In a very short time, and under great urgency, actors from technology, public health and legal regulation have come together to build a response. Data has become crucial for efforts to monitor and contain viral spread; simultaneously enabling a continuity of critical societal functions.

New actor constellations are being shaped through new data-driven approaches, but also depend on prior national and international institutions, preparedness plans, and technological infrastructures. A case in point is the Norwegian Smittestopp app: it was developed nationally, is compliant with European regulations on data protection (by design) and runs on a platform supplied by Apple and Google.

The project studies digital contact tracing over time and as social and data practice. It has four main work packages, each highlighting contact tracing from a specific perspective: politics and institutions (WP1), infrastructure (WP2), public health (WP3) and fundamental rights (WP4). These distinct analytic perspectives are also reflective of professional practices.

Through workshops, interviews, legal analysis and ethnographic studies, we analyze different actors’ perspectives on digital contact tracing, especially emphasizing the role of new data practices such as e-health and privacy engineering for the making of desirable futures. Results will be incorporated into an overall analysis of contact tracing as data politics, drawing upon a concept of data imaginaries.

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Research Council of Norway