Category: Humanities and social sciences


Radio frequency: Identifying Sources of Controversy




RISC is based on the controversy and perceptions surrounding RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). In support of case studies of R&D projects in various applicability, it aims at charting social controversies and perceptions in public space around the RFID and at analyzing the way in which these controversies and perceptions occur in situation.




GET – Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications – DEIXIS





[email protected]



6 months




1) Introduction

RISC is a sociological project on the social construct of risks related to the use of radio frequencies at ends of identification and tracing (RFID).

It fits in two fields of analysis:

a) that of the controversies around the “collective risks”

b) and that of perceptions of these risks.


Although this subject is still little studied, in public discussion it is already possible to observe an interesting crossing between various perceptions and definitions of risk related to the use of technologies RFID, returning to problems of health, of attack to the personal freedoms, diffusion of data-processing viruses… This diversity opens on scenarios of controversies which are to be located and specified in preparation for an increasingly important recourse to these technologies in domains which diversify gradually. The project aims at determining sources of dissension on technologies RFID, such that they appear by divergent representations and practices of various actors touched by their production and use. On the basis of perceptions and controversies concerning health risk, the project proposes to identify new sources of controversies.


Fields, keywords: RFID, innovation, Health, collectiv risks, controversy


2) State of the art

The problems of RISC are built starting from the results of the sociological studies undertaken on controversies and mobilizations around mobile phone antennas, for the reason that, in sociology, production of studies on controversies around the RFID is still non-existent.


3) Scientific step

Being a pioneer work in sociology, the project calls an exploratory step, in which a alley-return between various theoretical frameworks is essential to deploy the analysis at various levels. These theoretical frameworks are borrowed from the socio-anthropology of risk and the sociology of the environment, on the one hand, with the sociology of the organizations and the sociology of the innovation, on the other hand. In parallel, because of an interest to show the bond between public controversies and perceptions in situation, research falls under a methodological step suitable for a pragmatic sociology of the controversies. The project intend, on the one hand, to chart the controversies which occur in public space around the RFID. In addition, via ethnographies of project, it will be a question of accounting for the methods by which the socio-economic actors adapt these speeches, translate them and transform them “into situation”.


4) Partners, skills

RISC is lead by ENST (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications), in collaboration with the University of Milan. It engages, for its realization:

a)  a team of research of the Department of Economic and Social Sciences of ENST which is specialized in the field of the uses of the TIC (sociology of the innovation) and of the organisational analysis;

b) – a team of the Department of Social and Political Studies of the University of Milan specialized in economic and political sociology. The project falls under the continuity of a Franco-Italian collaboration already activated between the two institutions (TIC chair and Sustainable Development (GET), research project on the DEEE).

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