Managing Heterogeneous Actors in the Reliable Embedding of Security Technology: Findings from a Comparative Study of Airports in Germany

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 423
Oral Presentation
Daniel F. LORENZ , Department of Political and Social Sciences, Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Andrea JUNGMANN , Political and Social Sciences, Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
After 9/11 security measures, especially in the air traffic system, have been increased enormously. Complex technology is employed to protect the global circulation of passengers and goods. Recognizing this venue as a network of heterogeneous actors, it is instructive to see how they can manage to keep this more and more complex security system moving. In our contribution we want to interpret airport security as complex technology – in the sense that it transforms an unknown, potentially dangerous person into a safe passenger through a combination of different cause-and-effect chains – that is reliably embedded in the daily activities at the airport. Against the background of growing passenger numbers, even shorter turnaround times and increasing economic competition on different levels, we want to explore how it is possible to ensure this reliable embedding in spite of different dimensions of heterogeneity. We discuss findings of a comparative study of three airports in Germany which focuses on practices managing those diverse demands arising from 4 different sources of heterogeneity:

(1)    Differences in educational background and professional views on security

(2)    Differences in organizational backgrounds (bureaucracies, free-lancers, etc.)

(3)    Differences in institutional backgrounds (ministries, security services, airport management)

(4)    Differences between passengers and participants, staff

Each of these differences presents special challenges, inhabits various risks and is met by distinct sets of practices that buffer them in a way that the security processes do not collapse. Therefore the aim of our contribution is also to discover how these special forms of managing differences are interconnected and depend on, but also irritate each other.