The elusive 'good' : how performance measures shape the US child support enforcement program
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Performance measures do not just capture an organization’s ‘good performance’; they intervene in the valuation and construction of what counts as ‘good’ so it can be valued, enacted, and measured. This is the central theme of this thesis. Using a performativity lens, and drawing on valuation studies and the sociology of quantification, this research investigates the framing processes and mechanisms by which the federal performance measures, through a network of actors and devices, enable a U.S. child support enforcement agency to enact the ‘good performance’ that can be measured. Using ethnographic and case study methods, the study examines how actors and devices, through a framing process, qualify and negotiate the boundaries of their interactions to produce the ‘good performance’ that can be counted and measured. The boundaries they establish, however, produce overflows that potentially threaten the production of the qualified and quantified ‘good’. Such overflows emerge due to unexpected events, different versions of ‘good’, and conflicting frames of valuation of what counts as ‘good’. Based on the findings, the study offers a taxonomy of performative framing to explain how measures stimulate the organizing work of an agency so the ‘good performance’ can be organized, articulated, produced, and validated. It also offers a taxonomy of counter-performation to describe the uncertainties, multiplicities, and rivalries that the measured ‘good performance’ generates.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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