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Datafication and the practice of intelligence production

Big Data &Society, Volume 9, Issue 1, January-June 2022.
Datafication of social life affects what society regards as knowledge. Jasanoff’s regimes of sight framework provides three ideal-type models of authorised knowing in environmental data practice. This paper applies Jasanoff’s framework for analysing intelligence practice through an exploratory empirical study of crime and intelligence practitioners in a selection of police services in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. The paper argues that the ‘view from somewhere’ (VFS) captures the essence of existing police intelligence practices in the four countries but the ‘view from nowhere’ (VFN) is emerging as a possible future for police intelligence – an approach promoted by technology companies and supported mainly by police leaders and managers. The paper investigates the challenges and limits of a shift by police from VFS to VFN in the production of intelligence; the challenges are primarily political, which threaten the dominance of police contextual knowledge over ‘scientific’ knowledge. These political challenges also have symbolic and material implications. The paper concludes that, because of these challenges, a complete shift from VFS to VFN is not likely to happen. At best the two models might co-exist with the latter subordinate to the imperatives of the former, resulting in further tension between sworn officers and civilians, organisational inertia, as well as technologies that may be under-utilised or abandoned.

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