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"We do not talk about this" – Problematical silences in eGovernment
Mittuniversitetet, Institutionen för informationsteknologi och medier. (Citizys)
University of Oslo.
2009 (English)In: Electronic Journal of e-Government, ISSN 1479-439X, Vol. 7, no 3, 259-270 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Swedish public sector is currently in a process of transformation, often referred to as eGovernment. In this paper stories are told of problematic silences in an eGovernment implementation project in a Swedish government agency. eGovernment is discussed as something that is articulated differently by a range of actors in various locations. This enables articulations of multiple eGovernment and the multiple articulations can also be a means to contest dominant and possibly problematic articulations of eGovernment. The dominant discourse of eGovernment is the rationalisation of the public sector as a means of saving public resources. The improvement of quality and availability of public services, and to improve democratic processes are central in the dominant discourse. In this discourse there is a silence about the dismissal of employees in the public sector. There is neither talk about how the public sector is an important labour market for women nor how the rationalisation will affect the employees. Employees’ knowledges are not considered as being a resource for strategic IT-planning, and thus they are not invited to participate in the further design of IT-systems. The purpose of the paper is to explore the participation of the administrative officers in an eGovernment implementation project, and the meanings of eGovernment articulated in the project. Ethnographic methods were used in the collection of empirical material, and central ideas in participatory design and feminist technoscience were used in the analysis. The main argument is that the administrative officers participated in an ambiguous way. They were central actors but were at the same time marginalised within the organisation. The ambiguity regarding how they participated is related to different and more inclusive articulations of eGovernment in the project. The paper is concluded with a discussion concerning how alternative articulations of eGovernment can offer alternatives to the dominant eGovernment discourse.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 7, no 3, 259-270 p.
Keyword [en]
eGovernment, public sector employees, silences, feminist technoscience, participatory design
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-16123OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-16123DiVA: diva2:752903
Available from: 2009-10-20 Created: 2014-10-06 Last updated: 2014-10-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sitting on the fence: critical explorations of participatory practices in IT design
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sitting on the fence: critical explorations of participatory practices in IT design
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about participation in IT design. The problem background that I have outlined is that information technologies have far reaching consequences for societies and for individuals, and that the design of information technologies is one among many practices that shape the world in which we live. From a democratic point of view it is crucial that also women should be involved in these reality producing practices. In relation to this there are at least two stories about women’s participation in IT design; one about their absence from IT design, and one about their inclusion therein. Based on this problem background the purpose of my research is to critically explore participatory IT design practices, with a special focus on gender, power and knowledge. In order to fulfil the purpose I have three research questions: Who participated in the IT design practices? How did knowledge come into being in these practices? How was responsibility enacted?

My frame of reference is based on two research fields. One is Participatory Design (PD) with its focus on practitioners as co-designers in IT design practices, and the other is feminist technoscience which focuses on theories, methods, approaches, knowledge processes, and gender in technoscience practices. These two frameworks shares an interest in power relations and democratic participation in IT design. My empirical material was gathered with the help of ethnographic methods, and comes from a large IT design project in a Swedish government agency. The project was an eGovernment project, and a central objective was to rationalise the business. My focus was some (women) administrative officers who participated as business process analysts. This material was analysed with the help of feminist technoscience methodologies, foremost agential realism and diffraction.

My thesis is based on five research papers, and the results of these are discussed and related to the research questions and the purpose. Based on an expanded notion of IT design and of participation in IT design, I argue that the administrative officers in the IT design project participated as central actors in the project. These administrative officers were able to participate within the context provided by various entangled sociomaterial practices, such as the project method, boundaries between business and IT, gendered divisions of labour, eGovernment, rationalisation, the project objectives, and an innovation practice. I also argue that in the project knowledge did not simply exist, but came into being as a result of entanglements of these sociomaterial practices, foremost the project objectives and the method. As a result of the reconfigured knowledge the administrative officers were removed to the periphery of the project. An additional argument is that with participation comes responsibility, and that responsibility is related to agency. Responsibility was enacted in and as a result of entangled sociomaterial practices. In this project the administrative officers were given and took a lot of responsibility within the boundaries provided by the sociomaterial practices, but they also worked to widen their agency and thus extend their responsibilities in the project. In relation to gender my argument is that the administrative officers in the project – who were women – participated as central actors, but they were also marginalised and made invisible. Thus in this IT design project women were included as central actors.

As one of my contributions to PD and to feminist technoscience I want to underscore the importance of sociomaterial practices in IT design, such as IT design methods, and project objectives. These may act to restrict actors’ possibilities to act and to exert influence. Another is that knowledge in IT design practices come into being and are reconfigured as a consequence of intra-acting sociomaterial practices. Reconfigurations of knowledge might shift the power balance among actors in IT design projects and marginalise previously central actors. Responsibility too comes into being, or is enacted, in entangled sociomaterial practices. Furthermore responsibility in IT design is closely related to agency and participation, and widened agency might lead to extended possibilities to take responsibility. Additionally if positions in IT design are understood as fixed, they might make invisible more shifting and intricate professional relations and activities, and once these become visible, more women may become visible as central actors in IT design. A further contribution is that an expanded notion of IT design and participation might make women visible as central participants in IT design and in eGovernment. However, also central participants may become marginalised, as happened in this project.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sundsvall: Mittuniversitetet, 2010. 99 p.
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 80
Keyword
IT design, Participatory Design, feminist technoscience, participation, gender, power and knowledge relations, entanglements
National Category
Computer and Information Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-15371 (URN)978-91-86073-66-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-02-26, O111, Campus Sundsvall, Sundsvall, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-10-06 Created: 2014-09-10 Last updated: 2015-11-26Bibliographically approved

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