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The formalising regime and its formalising technology: the case of informal trade in Recife, Brazil

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The purpose of this paper is to consider the role of ICT within the formalisation programme put forward by Recife's City Council to regulate the informal trade that pervades the city's popular squares and streets. This formalisation takes shape by issuing formal licenses to give informal workers 'permission' to sell pre-determined items at specific sites. Drawing on Foucault we will argue that ICT is a formalising technology, which serves this formalising regime to control, discipline and survey informal traders. We will argue that the technology's disciplinary intent was shaped by: a) the ways by which the socio-political context, rather than a technical rationality, affected how both control and surveillance were performed and disciplinary decisions were enacted; b) how its appropriation by licensed workers facilitated the reach of the regime's surveillance but in some cases also sabotaged the programme's disciplinary intents, c) how the information system reinforced the marginalization of informal workers and strengthened the position of the municipality.