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PhD position: "Aiming Toward the Future: Policing, Governance, and Artificial Intelligence"

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

The Max Planck Research Group “AIming Toward the Future: Policing, Governance, and Artificial Intelligence” is looking for highly qualified and motivated candidates for 1 Doctoral Position starting April 2021.

The project “AIming Toward the Future” led by Dr Maria Sapignoli examines the rapidly increasing use of digital technologies in policing and policy. The research team will investigate how these technologies are developed and applied in state and non-state policing, extending to the involvement of the private sector in governance initiatives. The study has two interconnected research foci, both ethnographically-founded and comparative in scope. The first looks at how digital and machine learning technologies employed by state and non-state actors play out on the ground. The second considers the conceptualization, creation, and implementation of those technologies. The research group seeks to shed light, both empirically and theoretically, on the effects of the employment of digital technologies and big data in policing on social inequality, decision making, and the future of governance. It also analyses how those socio-technical assemblages are thought about, created, and deployed in different contexts and for different purposes.

Candidates Profile, Essential Duties & Responsibilities
To qualify for the PhD position, applicants must have a master degree in any field, though strong preference will be given to applicants with a bachelor or master degree in any of the following areas: anthropology, sociology, socio-legal studies, computer sciences (with bachelor in social science), science and technology studies.

Candidates should be familiar with ethnographic field research methods. Integrations of other methods, such as computational social sciences, will also be considered. As the working language at the Max Planck Institute and language of publications will be mainly English, candidates also need to have a strong English language proficiency. It is also highly recommended that candidates are fluent in the language(s) of their future field sites.

Applicants should submit original research proposals, within the overall frame of the project as outlined above, grounded in ethnographic methods and relating to one or more of the following areas:

  • the development, deployment and effects of machine learning and Automated Decision Making in and for global governance, with a specific focus on one or more of those areas: humanitarian interventions; human rights monitoring; Sustainable Development Goals.
  • cybersecurity
  • the development, deployment, and effects of machine learning in criminal justice
  • the development, deployment, and effects of digital technologies in environmental governance
  • digital technologies and activism
  • anthropology of police
  • digital ethnography
  • political and legal anthropology
  • critical data studies

Preference will be given to proposals that focus on Southern Africa and Europe; however, other countries and regions will also be considered. The development of the Covid19 pandemic and its impact will be taken into account in the planning and framing of the research project.
Doctoral candidates will develop their project inside the framework of the research group and together with the head of the research group. They should be willing to have their proposed projects to undergo some modification to optimize the coherence of the group project as a whole.

They are expected to be keen to collaborate in a team and develop their independent research projects within the framework of the research group and publish their outcomes in key academic venues. They are also encouraged to think of creative means toward allowing the team to communicate research outcomes to a wider public. Candidates are expected to play an active role in the organisation of international conferences and workshops and in joint publication projects.

Application deadline: 15 January 2021