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Journal Article

Virtual Acts of Balance!: Virtual Technologies of Knowledge‑Management as co‑Produced by Social Intentions and Technical Limitations  pp183-197

Anders Koed Madsen

© Dec 2013 Volume 11 Issue 1, Editor: Frank Bannister, pp181 - 322

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Abstract

Abstract: This paper presents an analysis of official documents and white papers pertaining to two web‑portals (The Policy Grid Project and FEED) that are launched in the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) respectively. The aim of the p ortals is to filter and synthesize information relevant for policy discussions and thereby improve ´knowledge‑democracy´ in different ways. The paper denotes such portals ´virtual technologies of knowledge management´ and it presents documental data as a window to analyze and discuss the infrastructural choices of such portals. The analysis is grounded in theories related to Social Construction of Technology and it shows how the framing of the portals and the concrete digital choices taken in relation t o the infrastructure are influenced by the intentions of relevant social groups as well as by the technical limitations on computers abilities to process semantic data. It is especially emphasized how technical web‑ontologies implicitly carry with them d eeper philosophical ontologies about phenomena such as ´politics´, ´scientific intentionality´ and ´freedom´. The compromise between these technical limitations and the social intentions is described as a ´virtual act of balance´. The paper accordingly co ncludes that a co‑production of technical infrastructures and social values takes place in the process of designing these types of portals. It illustrates the necessity of formalizing part of the policy‑making process if semantic machines are to play a si gnificant role in policy‑making. Computer‑based information‑processing makes software increasingly powerful and it is argued that the ´e‑governance community´ has to be reflective about this development and constantly consider the trade‑offs between struc tured semantics and looser types of classification of policy issues.

 

Keywords: Keywords: e-governance, knowledge-democracy, socio-semantic web, social construction of technology, discourse analysis

 

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