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Programming the State - Digital Technology and Institutional Design
1  Department of Applied Information Technology, University of Gothenburg


During the last decades, the world has been going through major technological, economic and social changes. The evolutionary process has brought people together through flows of communication into global digital networks to an extent that scientists have started to talk of the rise of a new geological era called "Anthroposcene".

The paper “Programming the State – Digital Technology and Institutional Design” focuses on political aspects of the on-going technological transformation bringing us into a digital society. The aim is to discuss the relation between political and technological change by applying historical institutional theory to explain and understand how ideas and ideology are embedded into digital political institutions.

The discussion starts by explaining the basic concepts used in historical institutional theory such as path dependency and formative moments. I then turn to a theory of history formulated by R.G. Collingwood, as this help to understand how the formation of political institutions may be studied in terms of a design process. My argument is that in order to understand the design of political institutions we have to include the study of political ideology since ideologies serve as the design plan for specific institutional solutions. If we are to understand the logic of digitalisation we therefore have to be aware of which ideas that are embedded into digital technological solutions.

The paper ends with a discussion on the implications that may be drawn by this argument and whether or not it is possible to turn back from a path once chosen to step upon.

Keywords: Digital technology, Design, Institutional Theory, Political Science,
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