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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:

Digital tools and systems are central in police work. The police point to digitalisation as decisive in getting the police up to par with the challenges in contemporary society. Digitalisation of police practices include a more encompassing interaction between humans and technology in several levels in the organization, which has both intended and unintended consequences. This project investigates the consequences of digitalisation on knowledge production in the police. Police knowledge is authoritative and is ascribed weight, especially as the Norwegian Police Service enjoys high levels of trust in the public. It is therefore crucial to investigate what it is that shapes and influences this knowledge production. In this project police knowledge production is studied by investigating digital tools are applied across levels and areas in the police organisation, and how this again influences what is regarded as true and untrue, safe, and unsafe, and eventually what gains status as knowledge. We both investigate police externally directed activities, on digital platforms where the police and the public meet, as for instance social media, and on in areas of work, where different internal data systems are applied in intelligence, investigation and patrolling police work. When the police apply digital tools and systems this shapes their methods of work, as well as the output and the products of their work. The project explores the what that finds its way into the digital systems, how information is stored and moved and how the use of digital tools both can create transparency and accountability but also conceals insecurities and complexity.

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