Trace together: Pandemic response, democracy, and technology

Stevens, Hallam, and Haines, Monamie Bhadra (2020) Trace together: Pandemic response, democracy, and technology. East Asian Science, Technology and Society, 14 (3). pp. 523-532.

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On 20 March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore government released a new app called TraceTogether. Developed by the Ministry of Health, SG United, and GovTech Singapore, the app uses the Bluetooth capability of smartphones to store information about other smartphones that have come into close proximity with your own. These data facilitate the government’s process of “contact tracing” through which they track those who have potentially come into contact with the virus and place them in quarantine. This essay attempts to understand what kinds of citizens and civic behavior might be brought into being by this technology. By exam-ining the workings and affordances of the TraceTogether app in detail, the authors argue that its peer-to-peer and open-source technology features mobilize the rhetorics and ideals of citizens science and democratic participation. However, by deploying these within a context that centralizes data, the app turns ideals born of dissent and protest on their head, using them to build trust not within a community but rather in government power and control. Rather than building social trust, TraceTogether becomes a technological substitute for it. The significant public support for Trace-Together shows both the possibilities and limitations of citizen science in less liberal political contexts and circumstances.

Item ID: 73177
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1875-2152
Keywords: Citizen science, COVID-19, Pandemic, Singapore, Surveillance
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2022 01:09
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441007 Sociology and social studies of science and technology @ 80%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420202 Disease surveillance @ 20%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200499 Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified @ 50%
23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2302 Government and politics > 230201 Civics and citizenship @ 50%
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