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School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

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Digital Technology and Transparency

Supervisor: Dr Antonios Kaniadakis

Research group(s): Cognitive Science

Motivation In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis the notion of transparency became a rhetorical token used to provide solutions to the financial problems. There seems to be a contrast, however, between a political understanding of transparency which aims at fairness and stability in the financial system and a technological understanding of transparency, aiming at the efficiency and effectiveness of its (the financial system’s) information infrastructures. Indeed, while political transparency calls for greater visibility and public availability of data on financial transactions, a technological understanding of transparency is rather based on the “invisibility” of the information infrastructures on which these transactions run on. As Star & Ruhleder (1996) have famously argued: “Infrastructure is transparent to use in the sense that it does not have to be reinvented or assembled for each task, but invisibly supports those tasks” (emphasis added). The tensions between the political calls for transparency as visibility on the one hand and the need for transparent infrastructures that invisibly support operational practices, on the other, raise questions in relation to the development, implementation and use of digital technologies, not only in finance but in various organizational and institutional settings (healthcare, government, social media, urban planning etc). Research objectives The questions we ask is: Can digital technologies become effective and efficient transparent infrastructures in the hands of their users, while at the same time enable a visibility that would perform accountability relationships in a fair and stable manner? How can this be achieved in different contexts? What is the role of designers, users and other stakeholders? This topic can be investigated in a variety of contexts. The most obvious is financial markets, however, I would accept proposals in other areas as well (healthcare, social media, government organisations, and so on). Additionally, the digital technologies considered may vary depending on the context. Research approach and contribution Based on an interpretive paradigm it is expected that the candidate should carry out an ethnographic investigation (interviews, observation, etc) of a relevant empirical field. However, they should explore innovative methodological approaches. Findings and analysis should contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of the relationship between digital technology and transparency by combining insights from various disciplinary areas (Information Systems, Management, Science & Technology Studies, Innovation Studies). Implications for development, implementation and use practice should be drawn.
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