Digital Democracy RGS panel

Smart watchI am running a panel at this week’s Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference in London on the topic of digital democracy. I’m really exciting about this double session panel for a number of reasons, not least because I’ve long been curious to hear other geographer’s perspectives on this contested object of digital democracy, and because of the range of different cases, topics, domains and framings being used across these 8 presentations. See full details of the sessions below:

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Research Associate on ‘Just Public Algorithms’

We have a 6 month 0.5FTE research associate post available in the 3S research group at the University of East Anglia, UK, on the Just Public Algorithms project. The successful candidate will work with me and Professor Jason Chilvers of the 3S research group, as well as the participation NGO Involve UK. The project is funded as part of the EPSRC Not Equal network+.

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The project will produce the most comprehensive picture yet of citizen responses to the ways in which algorithms are being adopted in and around UK public services, from welfare payments to policing, healthcare and immigration. More broadly it will suggest a roadmap for the responsible and transparent governance of these technologies and approaches. The primary duties of the research associate will be to carry out the literature review and mapping work around the use of algorithms in public services in the UK and the ways in which citizens are engaging with these developments, with support and supervision from me and Jason Chilvers. This work will be primarily desk-based using conventional systematic review methodologies but may also involve some scoping interviews or the use of digital methods. The research associate will also feed into a stakeholder workshop concerning the responsible future governance of these approaches and help to write the briefing note and academic paper produced at the end of the project.

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Essential criteria include: Postgraduate research qualifications in Science and Technology Studies or related fields, or equivalent experience; Ability to communicate complex information clearly, both orally and in writing; Ability to organise own time and work, to meet deadlines, and manage competing priorities.

The post is available to start on 1 October 2019 on a part time (0.5 FTE) basis for a fixed term period of 6 months.

See here for the particulars of the post and to apply. The closing date for applications is 3rd September.

Please do get in touch with me if you would like to discuss this position.

New paper: Mapping participation

rawpixel-658249-unsplashI’ve had a new paper, written with my colleagues Jason Chilvers and Tom Hargreaves, published in the journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. The paper is entitled ‘Mapping participation: A systematic analysis of diverse public participation in the UK energy system‘ and is one of the major papers from our work on the remaking energy participation project as part of phase 3 of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

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Book review of ‘Democratic Experiments’ by Brice Laurent

Democratic ExperimentsI have a book review out in the Journal of Responsible Innovation of Brice Laurent’s ‘Democratic Experiments: problematizing nanotechnology and democracy in Europe and the United States‘, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2017, pp. 261.

It’s a fantastic book which rewards close reading, with lots of useful insights into the governance of emerging technologies and the object of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Laurent proposes the very useful concept of ‘critical constitutionalism’, which I summarised the review as “the need to conduct analysis in the midst of processes of problematization of technologies and democracy – rather than waiting until everything is settled and stabilised”. This is a disposition I will definitely be taking forward in future work.

The full review is available here, and I can also provide a pre-print version to anyone who is interested in reading it.

Digital democracy – CFP for the RGS annual conference

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about digital participation and digital democracy lately, and hope to be able to do more writing on this topic and get some projects off the ground in 2019. I’m also hoping to connect with others with similar interests – thus this call for papers for the RGS annual conference in London this summer (28th-30th August). I’m also thrilled that the Digital Geographies Research Group of the RGS-IBG has agreed to sponsor this session at this year’s conference!

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New paper on ecologies of participation

ERSS paperI’m thrilled to be part of a new paper, with my colleagues Jason Chilvers and Tom Hargreaves, which is just out in Energy Research and Social Science. The paper is entitled ‘Ecologies of participation in socio-technical change: The case of energy system transitions’ and is the first academic paper to come out of our UKERC-funded project ‘Remaking Energy Participation‘. It reports on the results of the systematic mapping of energy participation in the UK 2010-2015 which I carried out. In particular it highlights the broader patterns or ‘ecologies’ of participation which we found by doing this mapping, and draws conclusions about the big picture of energy participation in emerging UK energy transitions. We argue that this shows that certain forms of participation – particularly opinion surveys and behaviour change – are valued over others – for example, protests or arts projects. There are also many unacknowledged connections between different examples of participation, for example in the models of engagement used, the topics covered/ or excluded, or the participants involved. The paper demonstrates that by trying to take account of this broader ecology of participation we can produce better evidence for energy transitions, and might view and intervene in examples of energy participation quite differently.

A plain-English briefing paper reporting on the results of this mapping work is available here.

New paper on organisational learning and participation

At the end of September I had a new paper published in the journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, based on my PhD research on organisational learning in the UK Government’s public dialogue body Sciencewise. I was particularly proud to see this little labour of love come out as it tries to give people an insight into my ethnographic work in an around Sciencewise’s public dialogue exercises on science policy. This is, as far as I am aware, the first extended ethnography of an organisation of participation which has been carried out. I also got to play around a bit with theories of space and learning, which I think was productive.

Transactions paperThe paper is available to read open access here.

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