Ph.D. Candidate in History, Harvard University; Graduate Student Affiliate, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University
September 22, 2023
2:00pm - 3:30pm
Goldman Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
Katharin Tai is a PhD candidate in political science at MIT. Her dissertation centers on technological innovation and change within government as a way of increasing state capacity, with a focus on the German Democratic Republic and the People’s Republic of China. Her research interests are authoritarian politics, bureaucracy, and the politics of technology.
Under what conditions do autocracies fail or succeed to adopt new information technologies to enhance state strength? Much important work has shown how especially authoritarian states use new technologies for goals such as censorship or political repression. In this paper, Tai explores under what conditions authoritarian governments fail or succeed to adopt new technologies in the first place, with a focus on new information technologies intended to strengthen the state. By employing the massive “cadre database” compiled by the German Democratic Republic between 1969 and 1989 as a case study, Tai argues that one of the core challenges of getting bureaucracy to do what is required, in order to get new technologies to work for them, is organizational rather than technical. Thus, bureaucratic behavior often explains when government institutions fail or succeed to adopt these new technologies.