Algorithmic Democracy and the Politics of Arctic Oil

Speaker: Dr. Elena Parmiggiani # NTNU

19th Feb 2018

15:30 - 17:00

6th Floor Staff Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building

The notion of algorithmic democracy is emerging in the literature and in the mass media to indicate the tendency of corporations to harvest datasets from individuals and the environment through intelligent sensor networks and algorithms to provide users with tailored services. Although it is recognized that market demand more than communal participation drives these processes, the dynamics of the infrastructuring processes that shape algorithmic democracy in practice remain underspecified.

Nowhere is the reliance on digital technology as a means to democratize knowledge production more apparent than in the Arctic. We know little about the Arctic, but it is believed to contain one fourth of the world’s undiscovered fossil resources, thus triggering efforts to build knowledge bases about this pristine environment. These initiatives are loaded with political controversies, involving oil and gas companies, the fisheries, environmental organizations, and governments. Drawing on a longitudinal study of a Norwegian oil company’s initiative to develop an open digital platform for real-time subsea environmental monitoring in the  Barents Sea, I illustrate and discuss how data and algorithms to produce knowledge about the Arctic shape the meaning of participation and the role of human and non-human stakeholders.