Authority, sensory power and the appification of bio citizenship: from tracking the pandemic to vaccine passports

Giota Alevizou, Eve Murchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines how authority and governmentality were enacted through digital technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the proliferation of track and trace apps, as well as digital vaccine passports, the contemporary ‘biocitizen’ became someone who was at once participatory and sacrificial for the ‘greater good’. Advancing a notion of sensory power (Isin and Ruppert, 2020) and app-enabled ‘biopolitical authority’ as a novel form of governmentality, this paper explores how the tracking and monitoring of individual bodies renders them ‘sense-able beings’ through the devices, apps, and platforms that they engage with. Drawing on a discourse-oriented analysis of UK-based government visuals and news reports surrounding the promotion (and controversies) of tracking apps and vaccine passports, we demonstrate that partaking in society as a ‘good’ biocitizen meant allowing COVID-19 technologies to pre-empt and influence bodily movements on both a micro and macro scale. As such we argue that COVID-19 technologies, ranging from tracking apps to vaccine passports, became ‘pre-emptive’ technologies that codified human bodies and their infectious status through alerts and notifications, which in turn, validated and reified a sense of belonging as a good and healthy ‘biocitizen’. This paper will unpack these themes to propose ways in which sensory power was deployed to organise and structure societies, first at a responsibilised individual level, and then as a societal collective, throughout the pandemic. In doing so, this paper seeks to address the varying forms of control that came out of the pandemic, as well as the social implications that they then had on biocitizenship and belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-42
Number of pages31
JournalDigital Culture and Society
Issue number1
Early online date31 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2023


  • Authority
  • biopower
  • Biopolitics
  • Digital communication
  • Digital Culture
  • sensory
  • power
  • media theory
  • Covid-19
  • vaccine communication


Dive into the research topics of 'Authority, sensory power and the appification of bio citizenship: from tracking the pandemic to vaccine passports'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this