Reordering the “World of Things”: The Sociotechnical Imaginary of RFID Tagging and New Geographies of Responsibility

Ulrike Felt (Corresponding author), Susanne Öchsner

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


The aim of this study is to investigate radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging as a form of sociotechnical experimentation and the kinds of sociotechnical futures at stake in this experimentation. For this purpose, a detailed analysis of a publicly available promotional video by a tag producer for the fashion industry, a sector widely using RFID tags, was analysed in detail. The results of the study indicated that the sociotechnical imaginary of RFID tagging gravitates around the core value of perfect sociotechnical efficiency. This demands a high degree of readiness to engage in standardization efforts, which performs a specific materialized understanding of ethics by other means. Furthermore, the analysis points to the importance of considering the spatiotemporal dimensions in which RFID tags work when reflecting on how this technology matters to society. Finally, the analysis shows a tacit effort to keep RFID technology and thus any questions of responsible innovation confined to the shop floor. However, given the spreading of the use of RFIDs, much wider-ranging considerations are called for.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425–1446
Number of pages22
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number5
Early online date24 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 509017 Social studies of science
  • 509025 Technology studies


  • Infrastructure
  • RFID tags
  • Responsibility
  • Sociotechnical imaginaries
  • Video analysis

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