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DigID - Doing Digital Identities

Project description

How digital ID devices are changing the citizenship experience

Digital ID devices such as electronic ID cards provide access to government services via PINs, biometric databases and blockchain-secured digital identity wallets. Public debate around these devices often centres on the ramifications of their criminal misuse, instead of their intended use by the majority of citizens. The European Research Council DigID project aims to evaluate how technologies and infrastructure used for citizenship purposes is being transformed in the digital age. It will explore how citizen and government relations are being reshaped through digital ID devices with respect to birth registration, citizen-government transactions and border controls.


We are witnessing the most significant change in statist identification practices since the consolidation of the international passport regime in the 19th century. Digital ID devices like electronic ID cards providing access to government services via PINs, biometric databases, and blockchain-secured digital identity wallets are increasingly complementing, or even replacing, paper-based means of identification. Yet so far, the implications of digital ID devices have mostly been studied in relation to criminal suspects and migrant 'others', not the normalized majority of citizens. This project uses this unique moment of change to assess how material citizenship - i.e. the technologies and infrastructures used to enact citizenship as a political subjectivity and a formal relation to the state - is reshaped in the digital age. Its principal research question is: How does the digitization of identification practices reconfigure relations between citizens and state authorities? The project investigates transformations of citizen-state relations through digital ID devices at three sites: birth registration, citizen-government transactions, and border controls. Theoretically, the project draws on science and technology and data studies to propose a conception of material citizenship as performative and sociotechnical and to advance a research agenda that focuses on the practical, epistemic, political, and ethical implications of digital identification. Methodologically, the project combines multi-sited ethnographies, textual analysis, and mapping to study the design, implementation, and use of digital ID devices in one international and four national case studies. In this way, DigID sheds light on the much-neglected material dimension of citizenship and shows how digital ID devices reshape the lived experience of citizenship - understood as a legal status, a form of membership in a political community, and a set of bottom-up practices enacting the 'right to have rights'.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 495 050,00
21335 Luneburg

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Niedersachsen Lüneburg Lüneburg, Landkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 495 050,00

Beneficiaries (2)