From Street-level to Cyborg Bureaucrats: Theory and Evidence on Socio-materiality in Public Administration
32 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 14, 2018
Despite the ever-increasing role of technology in governance, public administration research continues to treat technology as a passive object. The ability of technology to organize human agencies has so far not been explored in depth. To address this important gap, this article analyzes the role played by technologies of vision in mediating the citizen-state relationship through a socio-material analysis of an illustrative case. Specifically, this article illustrates how the production of legal IDs in frontline organizations involve multiple socio-material practices enacted by cyborg (human-machine hybrids) bureaucrats and their clients. The findings illustrate that instead of being treated as either street-level or screen-level bureaucrats, contemporary frontline workers should best be conceptualized as cyborgs whose decision making is entangled with material conditions of their intra-action with citizens. This research has important implications for study of bureaucratic behavior and provides a theoretical template for future studies on socio-materiality of contemporary public administration.
Keywords: sociomateriality, citizen-state interactions, Barad, cyborgs, gender identity
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