Arif Kornweitz, 2021

Breaking Models

I presented a paper on function creep, titled 'Friction, Leaks and Creep: COVID-19 Governance and Data Rights in the Netherlands', at a KIM-initiated research workshop at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPIWG).

Excerpt from the report:

"The Covid-19 response runs on an unprecedented computational infrastructure for tracking, measuring and forecasting the behaviour of the social body. Going far beyond epidemiology, it has affected the ways in which labour, education and scientific research are organized. On September 24, 2021, the research workshop Breaking Models: Data Governance and New Metrics of Knowledge in the Time of the Pandemic was held to analyse the governance and workings of the platforms, models and metrics that make up this infrastructure.

Evaluating the material, epistemological and sociopolitical factors underlying these changes, as well as the role and state of the ‘vast machine’ of computational infrastructures, was the aim of this workshop. It was organised by the KIM research group lead by Professor Matteo Pasquinelli of HfG Karlsruhe and hosted by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPIWG).

The KIM research group, known for its critical studies of digital culture and economy, and specifically its transdisciplinary approach to artificial intelligence, invited scholars from different fields of science studies to exchange on critical analyses and research desiderata. The explorative workshop and its transdisciplinary orientation can be considered a success, not only based on the lively exchange during the event and the general high interest, but also in terms of further research development. The workshop was part of the international research platform All Models and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation program “Corona Crisis and Beyond.”

"In the second section Arif Kornweitz (KIM HfG Karlsruhe) gave a talk on “Friction, Leaks and Creep: COVID-19 Governance and Data Rights in the Netherlands”. Focusing on the concept of function creep, unwanted change in algorithmic systems, Kornweitz stressed the distinction between rhetorical and functional levels when analysing phenomena like privacy infringements. By analysing how unwanted change is framed as a malfunction, we can understand the norms and political economic interests governing an algorithmic system. Creep, it was proposed, is not a malfunction but is in fact a defining feature or modus operandi of digital infrastructures. This was illustrated by a case study of data leaks and harmful malfunctions in the Dutch contact tracing infrastructure."

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