Maud Rebergen | Marginalising Machines: Digital Citizenship in the age of e-Governance

Maud Rebergen | Marginalising Machines: Digital Citizenship in the age of e-Governance | University of Groningen, centre for Media and Journalism Studies | Prof. dr Marcel Broersma and dr Rik Smit | November 2022 – November 2026 | m.s.rebergen[at]rug.nl (twitter: @msrebergen)

The growing role of digital technology in society has changed the notions of citizenship and inclusion. Governments worldwide are becoming increasingly digital and shift the responsibility to handle e-governance technologies towards citizens. Digital divide scholars express concern about these developments, as it becomes increasingly difficult for a significant part of society to participate. This is the case, even in societies that are digitally advanced. The Netherlands is an example of such a place where 97% of citizens have domestic internet access but where four out of 17 million citizens lack the basic digital literacy to participate in the digital society.

To examine the relationship between increased e-governance and the changing notions of citizenship and inclusion, this research focusses on a case study of DigiD, a tool used by  Dutch governmental agencies to verify identities. DigiD is on its way to become the sole gateway to access all Dutch (semi)public services as the Dutch government is discouraging alternative entries. This case is studied using a new concept, “marginalizing machines,” systems that amplify the process of marginalization of vulnerable individuals or groups. I analyze this concept through three levels, each with a specific research method. At the macro-level of the state, a historical-diachronic discourse analysis is employed to examine the socio-technical imaginaries about citizenship and inclusion that underlie the development of DigiD. At the meso-level, I study how citizenship and inclusion are afforded (or not) by the mechanisms embedded in the DigiD technology with the walkthrough method. At the micro-level, I employ an ethnography to study the motivations, experiences and expectations of digitally excluded citizens.