‘Being Tagged’: the digital reordering of the world

RFID technology (“Radio-Frequency Identification”) often remains invisible in our everyday lives, yet it is almost everywhere: the chips can be found in ID cards, vehicles, clothing, the environment, animals, and sometimes even people, among other things. Information such as production data, supply chains and prices, names, dates of birth or biometric characteristics are stored on these chips. In recent years, however, a new technology has gained acceptance that makes it possible to produce RFID tags without chips and to attach them inexpensively to almost any object.

To investigate this technology, an interdisciplinary research collaboration between Media Sociology, Science & Technology Studies (STS) and Electrical Engineering has set out to create an overall picture of the opportunities, challenges and conflict scenarios of ubiquitous chipless RFID applications. To this end, the researchers are systematically analyzing the social, political, and scientific theoretical meanings of the mass application of chipless RFIDs. The two-year research project “UbiTag” started in July and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with about 300,000 euros. It is being led by Prof. Dr. Jutta Weber from the Institute of Media Studies at the University of Paderborn and her research assistant Jasmin Troeger in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Daniel Erni from the Department of General and Theoretical Electrical Engineering (ATE) at the University of Duisburg-Essen.