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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell

A matter of facts: Flows of knowledge through digitalized police practices

Alternative title: Materialisering av fakta: Kunnskapsstrømmer gjennom digitale politipraksiser

Awarded: NOK 9.8 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2020 - 2026


Subject Fields:

In the Norwegian Police Service (NPS) digitalization is regarded as a key process. Their current ICT-strategy points out that a major effort is needed in getting the police up to par with the challenges in contemporary society, as well as stressing the need for development of digital tools within this sector. What these strategies do not take into consideration is the possible consequences of a total digital makeover of a whole sector. Our project asks what digitalization of a whole sector does to the knowledge production within this sphere, and what effects this has for societal development. Digitalization of police practices implies a radical increase in human-technology interaction on several levels in the organization and have a significant role in shaping the material environments, both within the police and among the public. The Norwegian police enjoys high levels of trust, and although a healthy, public criticism exist, their words and actions are ascribed authority. As such, police knowledge is a force that shapes society. Thus, it is crucial to have knowledge about the effect digitalization has on knowledge production. Digitalization has measurable effects, but also qualitative effects; it changes how people work and how information is interpreted and used. Pieces of information are entered into a network of databases, disseminated on social media sites, and information is increasingly recorded on digital devices. These digitalizing processes affect the status of information, working as processes that ascribe authority: when something is materialized trough technologies, uncertainty and complexity is reduced. This project will demonstrate the processes through which digitalization of the NPS have effects on what is ultimately considered facts about actions, crime and danger, affecting belief and conduct both within the police service and among the public.

Digitalization plays a major role in current plans and strategies within the Norwegian Police Service (NPS). In the current operational strategy, digitalization is drawn out as a key process both for fighting and preventing crime and increasing efficiency of police work in general. Digital tools are presented as the solution to a host of challenges, yet what is missing from these reports are reflections on how digitalization might affect practice on a more general level. In what ways does the new, digitalized police practices affect the production of knowledge within the Norwegian Police Service, and in their contact with the public? This project will study three specific sites of digitalization within the NPS, namely 1) the increased use of police registries and databases, 2) software for analysing big data, and 3) the use of social media to communicate with the public. Our hypothesis is that processes of digitalization and knowledge-based policing are authorizing processes that make police information appear as truths, obscuring the cultural elements such as habit, prejudice and value that underpin all such processes. Through fieldwork both within the police service, among the public and within the digital sphere, we will follow the processes through which small pieces of information are moulded into facts. How does human interaction with communications systems, registries, databases, software, social media networks and devices work to shape the foundations of what is considered knowledge, both within the police and in society at large?

Funding scheme:

SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell