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Contribution to Book
New Animism in Policing: Re-animating the Rule of Law?
The SAGE Handbook of Global Policing (2016)
  • Mireille Hildebrandt
This chapter explores the implications of data-driven agency in policing under the heading of ‘new animism in policing’. This chapter will focus on the relationship between policing, cyberspace and the emerging onlife world. This entails, first, an investigation of the changing socio-technical landscape that invites new ways of policing (see also Frois and Machado, this volume). In the second section I discuss the notion of a ‘new animism’ to highlight the agential character of ubiquitous computing in the context of an increasing blurring of the borders between cyber- and physical space. This relates to the fact that both citizens and the police have access to what I have called ‘big data space’, which is global in character though access to its (dis)contents is locally and contextually distributed, some would say along the lines of a new form of capitalism, including a new industrial-security complex. This has led to a complex dance of cybercrime, cyber warfare and ‘smart policing’, with citizens caught in between, becoming the object of increasingly indiscriminate observation. This is usually framed as building on data-driven artificial intelligence, employing crime mapping and crime analysis to forecast the locality and mobility of disturbances of the peace in the very broad sense. Though some may deem this to be an advance in terms of the rationality of crime control, the computational intestines of ‘big data space’ are evolving into something more akin to a ‘digital unconscious’; difficult to grasp or understand and comparable to our own unconscious rather than to the rule-based rationalistic AI of a previous age.
Next, I discuss the relationship between technological developments and policing, fleshing out how technology matters and how transformations in the socio-technical landscape induce or inhibit local, global and ‘glocal’ patterns of policing. After recalling the influence of transportation and communication infrastructures on policing during the 19th and 20th centuries, I analyse the onset of smart policing in recent years, notably revisiting the issue of discretion for street-level bureaucrats in policing. Based on these analyses, I speculate on what ‘big data space’ and the ‘digital unconscious’ may trigger in terms of policing, focusing on the disruptions of what has been called the double contingency of human interaction. Finally, I conclude with some remarks on how the new animism impacts the idea and the practice of discretion in policing and propose that we consider ways to re-engage double contingency in smart policing thus re-animating instead of stifling the Rule of Law in the era of data-driven agency.
  • data-driven,
  • agency,
  • ubiquitous computing,
  • crime mapping,
  • big data,
  • police discretion,
  • crime control,
  • industrial-security complex
Publication Date
Ben Bradford, Beatrice Jauregui, Ian Loader & Jonny Steinberg
Citation Information
Mireille Hildebrandt. "New Animism in Policing: Re-animating the Rule of Law?" The SAGE Handbook of Global Policing (2016) p. 406
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