Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Emergence of iBorder: Bordering Bodies, Networks, and Machines

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Emergence of iBorder: Bordering Bodies, Networks, and Machines

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper scrutinizes the interrelation between technology and processes of bordering. In particular, it addresses the ways through which biometrics, dataveillance, predictive analytics, and robotics enlist the human body, networks, and human-machine assemblages in practices of inclusion and exclusion at the contemporary dislocated and 'smart' border. Through a description of the sociotechnical apparatuses underlying biometric, algorithmic, and automated border work, the paper develops the term iBorder, and connects its specific affordances to an emergent late-modern regime of security. With reference to the notion of cultural technique, the paper argues that contemporary technologically facilitated practices of bordering coconstitute, rather than merely process, contingent subjectivities and frames for practice.

Keywords: bordering, iBorder, biometrics, dataveillance, predictive analytics, biopolitics, bodies, patterns of life


This paper addresses the role of new technologies of identification, surveillance, and automation in processes of bordering. More precisely, I will develop the term iBorder to conceptually grasp how biometrics, dataveillance, predictive analytics, and robotics impact upon and change contemporary deterritorialised regimes and practices of inclusion and exclusion.

Current advances in network surveillance, biometric identification, robotics, and algorithmic analytics facilitate processes through which the border disperses and becomes independent of territorial confinement and topographical location. New mobile regimes of inclusion and exclusion target individual bodies wherever they are, while algorithmically determined risks and threats increasingly inform and predispose human decision making. The paper suggests that the protocols, operations, and procedures that underlie the abovementioned developments form the core of a fundamental cultural technique of bordering that not only processes given contingent identities and patterns of life, but also actively coconstitutes them.

Bordering as cultural technique

Stiegler (1998; 2009) has criticized a fundamental dichotomization between organic life and inorganic matter in Western philosophy. He elaborates the framework of such thinkers as Husserl, Heidegger, and Simondon to "permit the hypothesis that between the inorganic beings of the physical sciences and the organic beings of biology, there does indeed exist a third genre of 'being': 'inorganic organized beings', or technical objects" (Stiegler, 1998, page 17). Technical objects are thus brought forth as entailing their own fundamental dynamic that cannot be reduced to instrumental categories such as ends-means relationships. On the contrary, due to a growing technicalization of the contemporary world, technology reveals an increasingly formative power that affects all aspects of human life and practice. Humanity and technics, argues Stiegler (2009, page 2), are 'indissociable', and humans emerge as 'prosthetic beings' coconstituted in and through technical surroundings. (1) This idea of a mutually constitutive relation between formed matter (technology) and human subjectivity resurfaces in a recent strain of German media theory that centres on the concept of cultural technique.

According to Winthorp-Young (2013, pages 5-7), the term cultural technique emerged from the translation of the German term Kulturtechnik and incorporates three distinct yet interrelated conceptual trajectories. Firstly, uses in the field of agricultural science point to such areas of practical knowledge as irrigation techniques and other forms of environmental engineering. The underlying root is derived from the term's Latin origin cultura (verbal form colere), indicating an act of tending or cultivating. Thereby, cultural technique becomes intrinsically connected to the drawing of a dividing line between nature and culture. Following Winthorp-Young (2013), this focus opens up the question of whether the act of drawing the line itself is a part of culture or nature, or whether it points to something preceding, and creative of, this very distinction and the two opposed fields it implies, namely a set of cultural (or enculturing) techniques: "A proper understanding of culture may require that the latter be dissolved into cultural techniques that are neither cultural nor natural in any originary sense because they generate this distinction in the first place" (page 5). …

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