Preprint Open Access
This paper aims to explore the materiality of algorithmic governance by looking at the political, social and bureaucratic negotiations that building an information system entails. Through a study of the Crime and Criminal Tracking System in India (CCTNS), it will look at the failure of smart policing in India as a complex mix of politics, bureaucratic inefficiency and social norms. The paper is based on Bowker and Star’s (1999) study of infrastructures where they have argued that physical, political and bureaucratic infrastructures are invisible but intrinsic to the making of any classification system. Their concept of “Infrastructure inversion” which means, “recognising the depths of interdependence of technical networks and standards (in the making of infrastructures), on the one hand, and the real work of politics and knowledge production on the other” (ibid: 34) is a methodological tool to analyse infrastructures and their formation from a social, political and economic lens. This paper will take CCTNS as a large-scale information infrastructure and study its underlying political, social and bureaucratic infrastructures to understand how they contribute to the failure of smart policing in India. The assumption being that it is not just physical construction of systems but negotiating with the social, bureaucratic and the political that impact the setting up of a digital system. This paper is part of an ongoing project to study digital crime record keeping and data analysis in India and currently deals with only New Delhi, capital city of India. However, the condition of CCTNS implementation in New Delhi is indicative of its implementation in the rest of the country.