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Home » Past Events » Technology, Individuality and Public Policy – Public Services Workshop Series, Hilary Term, 2009

ESRC Public Services Programme and Oxford Internet Institute

Public Service Workshop Series Hilary Term 2009

‘Technology, Individuality and Public Policy’

12.30-1.45 Wednesdays weeks 3 to 8, Seminar Room, Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles.

Conveners:       Christopher Hood (All Souls, Department of Politics and IR) Helen Margetts (Mansfield, Oxford Internet Institute )

The Internet and other information technology developments in principle facilitate new ways of ‘personalising’ policies and services for specific groups of individuals, from scanning, tracking and identity systems to health care treatments that build on the ability to classify individuals into subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to particular disease or in their response to specific treatments. Some such developments are ‘personalizing’ and ‘depersonalizing’ at the same time, as in the case of face-to-face contacts being replaced by other forms of interaction. They lend themselves to numerous possible applications, from enhancing markets and choice at the expense of traditional arrangements, for instance in doctor-patient relationships, to more targeted applications of government policy and security surveillance. The aim being to explore the implications of this development for public policy in the coming decades.

These workshops brought together participants from several disciplines that are relevant to understanding the interaction of the internet, cultural change and other technological developments on government and public services. Some of the questions asked include:

The series looked at developments across policy sectors such as transport, health, education and criminal justice and in countries where they are most advanced, such as Singapore. It also explored the extent to which personalisation effects can be generalised across the ‘tools’ of government policy, as argued by Hood and Margetts in The Tools of Government in the Digital Age (Palgrave, 2007).

The workshop is part of a series which has been running for several years, and comprises a small informal group of faculty and graduate students interested in the analysis of public policy, public services and executive government.


4th February – Helen Margetts (Professor of Society and the Internet, University of Oxford) ‘Personalising the Tools of Government’ and Yorick Wilks (Professor of Computer Science, Oxford Internet Institute and University of Sheffield) ‘Personalizing Public Policy with Companions?’

11th February -   Nikolas Rose (James Martin White Professor of Sociology and Director of BIOS Research Centre for the study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society, LSE) ‘Confluence of Consumerism and Technology in Personalising Medicine’

18th February -   Rose Luckin (Professor of Learner Centred Design, London Knowledge Lab and University of Sussex) ‘Personalising Education’

25th February – Mary Dixon Woods (Professor of Medical Sociology, University of Leicester) ‘Technoregulation: Doctors and Design-based Approaches to Patient Safety’

4th March – Roger Burrows (Professor of Sociology, University of York) ‘Geodemographics, Commercial Sociology and Public Policy’

11th March – Kieron O’Hara (Philosopher, Computer Scientist and Political Writer, Senior Research Fellow in School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton) ‘Autonomy, Privacy and Online Personalisation: Rights and Responsibilities’