Governing border security infrastructures: Maintaining large-scale information systems (2020) Security Dialogue,
This article explores the maintenance of large-scale information systems that are used for, among other purposes, border security in the European Union. My argument is that information systems do not always operate according to their design scripts. They materialize as unruly, unstable and failing infrastructures that are governed through maintenance in order to correct any identified functional anomalies and address potential future failures by adapting them to emerging technologies and the service needs of end-users (e.g. border guards, police). To conceptualize the maintenance labour through which information systems are governed, I synthesize ideas developed in Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics and governmentality with contributions that explore the agentic forces and proclivities of technoscientific matter. By unearthing the very mechanics of maintenance processes, I make two contributions to the literature that interrogates the digitization and smartening of border security. First, I demonstrate that attending to maintenance permits a more complete understanding of the agency of information systems. Second, I broaden the research agenda that explores border security as practice by directing attention towards the often invisible, but politically significant, labour of maintainers who, by rendering information systems functional, sustain the power to govern international mobility by digital means. © The Author(s) 2020.
Border security; information systems; maintenance; Michel Foucault; New Materialisms