The talk proposes to conceive of cybersecurity through the lens of care, a notion taken from feminist Science and Technology Studies. Caring for cybersecurity emphasizes on the invisible, morally charged, and experimental practices of doing cybersecurity. Cybersecurity as a "super-wicked problem" does not reside in isolated factors or normative frameworks, but it requires tacit work and uneasy decisions to be made. It requires an analysis of the concrete practices of cybersecurity rather than evaluation or judgment of those. I propose that cybersecurity research deals with practices of care and long-term commitment rather than fixing and moving on. And this must be better resonated in research and policy.
The talk mobilizes findings from a 13-month ethnographic study in two German critical infrastructure companies. Both companies are in the midst of creating new data infrastructures accommodation data science and big data. Cybersecurity was unsettled in the process and became a core concern - which is rarely the case. This aided me as an ethnographer to observe cybersecurity in "action", but more than that controversies drew me in and asked for anthropology-informed ways of dealing with conflicts between developers and security officers, security officers and management, or developers and other developers. I argue that the notion of care was helpful in these conflicts yet again as it emphasized on mutual understanding and compromise rather than following the rule book.
I take inspiration in feminist and post-Actor Network Theory approaches that emphasize less on compliance and conformity and rather on fluidity and multiplicity. I find these approaches intriguing for cybersecurity research because they offer more nuanced understandings of conflicting accountabilities, tension and non-normativity as much as commitment and care.
Laura Kocksch studied cultural anthropology, sociology, and political science. During her undergrad years she developed an interest in studying social media technologies as re-configurating forms of locality and presence in political controversies. In the following years, she began studying technologies less as tools or mediators but as themselves social and political. From this grew her fascination with cybersecurity as a mode of governing technologies and humans alike. In the interdisciplinary phd program SecHuman – Security for Humans in Cyberspace her frustration grew with "factors research” in cybersecurity that reduce human, technological or organizational action to quasi-mathematical factors in a “system”. From her background in Anthropology and Science and Technology studies, she found approaches that focus on practices and ways of interrelating and hybridity more convincing than separating the world into isolated areas and their “factors”. Laura is currently finishing her dissertation thesis with the title "Fragile Relations - On Cybersecurity Practices in German Critical Infrastructures" at the Ruhr University in Bochum. She is founding member of the Ruhr University Science and Technology Studies lab where she explores participatory methodologies for the study of cybersecurity and environmental controversies.