The aim of the digital engagement strategies for health, education and most other government services is to introduce efficiencies of scale, administrative simplification, multi-agency links, and so on. The aim is to provide frictionless access for service users who are told they will be able to use these systems to exercise a greater level of choice about when and how these services are applied. The bounty that is promised, and that we supposedly gain from shifting our services online, is said to outweigh the hazards.
One major problem, however, is the democratic deficit that accompanies this drive. The designers, engineers and programmers who implement these ICT systems are seldom questioned in public or held to account by their fellow citizens, except in terms of cost and project management delays.
I’ve written a paper that I’m discussing at the Digital Culture 2019 Conference at University of Nottingham, part of the Digital Culture Research Network. In this paper I am exploring some methodological ideas about how researchers can bridge the gap between the technical and management approaches and the lived experience of people in their communities. Particularly I’m thinking about how people feel that they belong within a community, and how they deal with exclusion and marginalisation, and what the lessons might be for digital developers.
You can download the paper here: