Governance, accountability, ethics; ethnomethodology, science and technology studies; ethnography; markets, surveillance, security
My research interests cover issues of governance, accountability and ethics in forms of science, technology and organization. I draw on ideas from ethnomethodology, science and technology studies (in particular forms of radical and reflexive scepticism, constructivism, Actor-Network Theory and the recent STS turn to markets and other forms of organizing) and my research is ethnographic in orientation. In particular I am interested in the question of how entities (objects, values, relationships, processes and also people) become of the world.
My substantive interests are quite varied. Across a number of research projects I have ethnographically engaged with: security and surveillance, traffic management, waste, airports, biometrics, parking, signposts, malaria vaccines, Universities, algorithms and speeding drivers. Through these projects I have looked into ontology, notions of equivalence, parasitism, the mundane, market failures, problems and solutions, deleting, value and the utility of social science.
I am not currently teaching due to research buy-out. However, I am happy to hear from potential PhD students in all my areas of interest.
I continue to work on a number of funded research projects:
Market-based Initiatives as Solutions to Techno-Scientific problems (MISTS)
I am currently principal investigator on a 5 year ERC programme of research (2013-2018) entitled MISTS, which asks: Can markets solve problems?
Markets appear in discussions of an ever broader variety of social, political, technological, scientific and occasionally economic issues. Many of these discussions position markets as the basis for resolving (even simplifying and delegating responsibility for) otherwise complex problems in fields such as healthcare, education, security and the environment. Areas that once were the provision of the state are now imbued with devices, metrics, rankings, resources, regulations, experts and tenders oriented toward bringing into being a variety of market-based initiatives. The logics built into these initiatives of efficiency, effectiveness, better services, at lower costs – all made transparent and accountable to public beneficiaries – appear difficult to resist. However, this programme of research will seek to step back from these logics and ask fundamental questions of: what are markets and how do they work; what counts as value, for whom, decided in what ways; who and what is accountable to whom and what, through what means; what counts as effective or equitable and how is the counting accomplished?
Through up-close ethnographic research, the MISTS programme investigates four sub-projects in which market-based initiatives have come to the fore, in the fields of: security, healthcare, the environment and education. The programme also involves working papers, events, workshops, presentations, on-line discussions and outreach. (2013-2018; ERC Consolidator Grant, total budget euros 1,283,195).
Automatic Data relevancy Discrimination for a PRIVacy-sensitive video surveillance (ADDPRIV)
I was Goldsmiths principal investigator on this 3 year project. Although video surveillance can be said to make a contribution to security, the entanglement of surveillance, security and citizens’ rights has generated deep controversy. ADDPRIV investigates the possibility that technologies can be developed which might move away from an apparent trade-off or balance between security and human rights in the use of video surveillance in public places. In place of metaphors of balance, ADDPRIV looks to metaphors of addition; for example, is it possible to develop security and privacy? The technological developments under scrutiny in the project include algorithms which attempt to narrow the field of video surveillance images made visible, auto-deletion technologies which expunge systems of video data and access management systems which might enable a kind of accountability-by-design. Key research questions are: what are the ethics of deleting? What happens when suspicion is delegated to machines? What are the organizational consequences of automating surveillance? (2011-2014; FP7 9 partner collaboration between academia and industry, total budget euros 2,818,338).
Privacy Awareness Through Security Branding (PATS)
I was Lancaster University principal investigator on this 2.5 year project. The overall objective of PATS was to generate a concept of security branding to increase opportunities for voluntary adoption of privacy standards among security organizations. On the one hand, the project studied the degree of privacy awareness across various sectors, firms and across international government agencies that promote or use security technologies. Research focused particularly on biometrics and CCTV as these two merge continuously with each other and imply a range of applications such as motion detection, segmentation, object classification and tracking, background and behaviour identification. On the other hand, PATS asked: what is security branding? As a concept, can branding resolve issues around privacy and security? Who benefits from more sophisticated branding of surveillance systems? (2009-2012; FP7 5 partner collaboration, total budget euros 965,954).
Researching Inequality through Science and Technology (ResIST)
I was a senior research fellow working on this 3 year project. The research investigated the possibilities of shaping alternative accountability systems in order to incorporate the needs of the disadvantaged. The research argued that systems of accountability are central to potential impacts on policy because they are the means by which the potential distributional consequences of science and policy and practices can be recognised and assessed by formal elements of the political system. The research focused in particular on re-distributional issues associated with the design, development, access to and use of mundane, everyday technologies – the development of interventions in malaria, attempts to produce an ethical t-shirt and the management of electronic waste (2006-2008; FP6 total budget euros 1,200,000)
Governance and accountability relations in mundane techno-scientific solutions to public problems
I was the senior research fellow working on this 2.5 year project. The research aimed to further our understanding of the ways in which science and technology is increasingly central to the formation and maintenance of systems of accountability and governance. The purpose of the research was to investigate accountability relations in networks of governance deploying mundane techno-scientific solutions in attempts to solve public problems. In so doing, the research also sought to engage a number of outstanding theoretical problems about the status and utility of the terms “accountability” and “governance”, and to extend our appreciation of the normative potential of science and technology studies (STS). In particular the research focused on local authority waste management and recycling, the movement of people through airports and the relationships of governance established through speed cameras (2004-2006; ESRC Science in Society program project budget £160,000)
Evaluating Information technology related ChangE (EVINCE)
I was the research fellow on this 3 year ethnographic research project investigating the challenges involved in introducing new technologies to UK Universities. The research focused in particular on the rapid growth of accountability systems within Universities and the consequences that emerged from these systems. (2000-2003; HEFCE Good Management Practice Project total budget £210,000)
Ethnographies of organizations
The principle means through which I carry out research in these projects is organizational ethnography. In my attempts to take the methodological aspects of researching organizational settings seriously, I have developed a book entitled Organizational Ethnography which is part history, part methodology and partly an opportunity to write about my favourite ethnographies.
Does STS Mean Business?
This is a question that has arisen continuously during these research projects for me and colleagues with whom I have worked. Through organizing two workshops and publishing a recent journal special issue, we explored what happens when STS ideas move into business settings, to what extent its radical edge is blunted or renewed by such engagements and the ways in which STS makes business look mean.
Managing Privacy Through Accountability
Guagnin, D; Hempel, L; Ilten, C; Kroener, I; Neyland, D. and Postiga, H, eds. 2012. Managing Privacy Through Accountability. London: Palgrave-Macmillan. ISBN 9781137032225
Surveillance, Accountability and Organizational Failure: The Story of Jean Charles de Menezes
Neyland, D.. 2009. Surveillance, Accountability and Organizational Failure: The Story of Jean Charles de Menezes. In: B Goold and D. Neyland, eds. New Directions in Surveillance and Privacy. Devon: Willan, p. 1. ISBN 1