Skip to main content

When cars get an identity change operation

Intuitively, one would think that identity experiments are something that takes place during the teenage years and that for example gender change operations are reserved for transvestites. But as in so many other cases, we underestimate the flexibility of our fellow non-human citizens when limiting identity change practices to humans.

One surprisingly clear example of this came before my eyes while digging into a heavy law proposal as a part of my internship with a Danish MP who is also spokesperson on taxation. As it occurs, Danish tax legislation has until now left a considerable tax hole wide open because it failed to recognize that cars too go through "identity change" (as it says in the justification for the proposed law).

More precisely, a car can undergo an operation that tranforms it from a business vehicle into a private car. Most of the time it involves mounting a few passenger seats in the back and changing the color of the number plates. Afterwards, it has to be registered anew and controlled by the authorities (or rather, their private sector representatives). If successful in this second inauguration as a legal Danish non-human citizen, the car has saved its owner a considerable amount of money, due the current legislation that bills private cars and business cars substantially different.

The example shows that cars are so deeply embedded in our lives that they share the division between family life and work life. Thus, they are also deeply embedded in legislation and change status when transformed from a means of production (business vehicle) to a family member (private vehicle). The problem is that most people aren't this sophisticated when it comes to classifying cars - they don't mind using a former means of production as a family member as long as it saves them money.

We have grown into close relationships with our cars. The registration fee amounts to more than half of a car's total price here in Denmark. This huge state income gives cars a well-deserved place in the very middle of political debate, but probably also makes it hard for government to reduce the amount of cars drastically, even when there are strong arguments in favor of it.

Might it be that if we recognized the central role that cars play in our daily life, we would also make sounder decisions on how to handle them as a collective?


Popular posts from this blog

Official statistics: 51% of 16-74 year old Danes use Facebook

In making a case for why my MSc dissertation here at the Oxford Internet Institute should be concerned with something as hyped and mundane as Facebook, I've been looking for numbers on the Danish social media landscape.

On the English-language web, the commercial SocialBakers Facebook statistics suggest that 49% of the Danish population are on Facebook.

This rather non-transparent number can now be compared with a recent report by Statistics Denmark, suggesting that 51% of 16-74 year old Danes have a Facebook account. The second-largest online social network service in Denmark, LinkedIn, is trailing far behind at 8%. Most surprisingly perhaps, a mere 3% of the surveyed age cohort use Twitter.

As such, there are compelling quantitative reasons for choosing Facebook over e.g. Twitter for a case study of how social media reflect life in Denmark. Another recent survey produced for a Danish daily confirms this: A tiny elite of the 319 most active Twitter users in Denmark write half of …

Two (used) comments on Gillespie's new chapter "The Relevance of Algorithms"

I'm in Paris this semester, as a visiting doctoral student at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI) at Ecole des Mines and at the médialab at Sciences Po. 
Apart from finding myself in the middle of two very lively research communities, I've also been so lucky that a series of cross-institutional seminars on Digital Methods are taking place in Paris this spring.
The last seminar was on "Transformative interaction: web effects on social dynamics", for which I volunteered to prepare a brief comment on one of the selected readings, namely Tarleton Gillespie's chapter "The Relevance of Algorithms", forthcoming in an edited volume on "Media Technologies" to be published by MIT Press. (The full chapter has been uploaded by Gillespie here).
Since I prepared the comments in writing, and since they did in fact spark some discussion, I've decided that it might be appropriate to recycle them as a blog post. Here goes:

Introducing: The Twitter-thing!

Context: The Twitter-thing is the (awkward?) translation into English of 'Twittertinget' - a project I worked on last year with two Danish colleagues, Irina Papazu (CBS) and Tobias Bornakke (Uni. of Copenhagen) in collaboration with the Danish newspaper Politiken. The Twitter-thing is a tool that draws on TCAT in order to build a network visualisation of how Danish MPs use hashtags on Twitter. Here follows my abstract for the upcoming Data Publics conference in Lancaster, where I'll be exhibiting the Twitter-thing.

Parliaments could seem to be highly issue-agnostic places. All sorts of problems move in and out of these large and expensive devices (Dányi 2015), while the membership stays more or less the same in-between elections. But as issues are taken up and left behind by parliaments, they also make cuts in the parliament in the sense that specific sets of parliamentarians become attached to specific issues. The aim of the Twitter-thing tool is to trace these cuts and v…