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Sociological and organizational aspects of ICT
Introduction into the specialization
Thinking of the sociological and organizational aspects of ICT means wondering about the social transformations related to ICT’s diffusion. Concerning the sociological and organizational aspects, 3 principal research orientations are carefully considered.
Governance and regulation of ICT
This research line concerns the new patterns of governance applied by public bodies as by private ones to regulate their policies and organizations. This sociological research aims at identifying new patterns of governance and at questioning their legitimacy regarding some democratic and human values. It also questions the role of ICT in this new ways to regulate.
Practices and ICT
This research orientation tries to understand interactions between technologies, social representation and practices to account for social dynamics. These interactions must be the subject of a deep reflection in order to beyond a simple impact analysis. Indeed, impact analysis is both unaware of the endogenous character of technology and of the question of appropriation by the individuals and the collectives.
Organisational change, new management practices and ICT
ICT appear carrying organisational changes. But ICT are not carrying in themselves given organisational models (centralized/decentralized, hierarchy/market). ICT allow raising some constraints giving the opportunity to choose organisational forms adapted to the environment or strategy. The goal is to understand new organisational models (e.g. community), the properties of these new organisational models and the way new organisational models interact with old organisational forms. It also questions the change management processes.
Short description of the involved research centres
Two research centres are associated to the ESST programme and will be very please to welcome ESST students: the CITA (research Centre in Information Technology Assessment) and the CRID (research Centre in Computer and Law)
– CITA (research centre in information technology assessment)
Created in 1988 on the initiative of four departments of University of Namur, CITA is an interdisciplinary research centre specialises in social scientific research on new technologies, and more especially in information and communication technologies (ICT). CITA research focuses on sociological and philosophical aspects of ICT. It combines both fundamental (PhD’s) and applied research, and has been active in national and European research projects. Researches are mainly financed by the Federal Scientific Policy (BELSPO), by the Walloon Region, several Federal Public Services and the European Commission.
Over the last 20 years the centre has known a steady growth both in terms of personnel as in terms of research output. The backgrounds of the researchers are sociology, philosophy, management, communication, law, economy… Due to the link with the Faculty of Computing Science, the research centre work in close conjunction with computer scientist.
CITA’s researches investigate 6 scopes:
The common point of all CITA’s researches is their vision of ICT as technological and organizational devices implemented by people to regulate their social relations (co-operation, coordination, communication). CITA’s researches investigate this human construction to understand the governance‘s principles and the impact on individuals, organizations and society.
– CRID: (Research Centre for Computer and Law)
The CRID is involved in all aspects of ICT law. The CRID aims to create a debate on the legal, economical and technical issues concerning the Information Society Technologies. The CRID takes part with public and private partners to IST projects that raise crucial questions for citizens and for the society. The CRID has also participated in different EU launched researches (4th and 5th programs) analyzing multimedia systems. A lot of EU regulatory instruments and national legislation have been drafted by the CRID which offers consultancy services to private and public organizations.
The CRID is led by Professor Yves Poullet. He is Member of the Legal Advisory Board (LAB DG XIII/F), Former president of the Belgian Association for Computer Law. He was member of the Belgian Privacy Commission and participated to the European Workgroup on Telecommunications and Medias. At last, he is member of the “Commission des norms des télématiques médicales” of the Federal Ministry of Public Health, member of the Workgroup “Aspects juridiques et éthiques” of E.M.D.M.I. He is the author of more than 270 papers about the societal assessment of ICT: innovation organization and governance
The specificity of Namur is to give an individual formation to the student connected with the subject of his thesis. This formation is specifically designed for ESST-students (20 hours). The individual formation consists of an overall introduction to the field selected and we will have workshops concentrating on the connections between literature and the selected specialization topics. We offered a selection of main references in connection with the selected specialization topics.
Students have also the possibilities to follow the international research workshop “Communication et Society”, organised each year by the CITA. The subject changes every year. Some example: “Information Society, Trust and Governance: facing an uncertain world” (2007), “Technical reason, ethical reason and democratic governorship” (2006), “Information Society: Innovation, Legitimacy, Ethics and Democracy” (2006) (http://www.info.fundp.ac.be/confiance_gouvernance/)
The scientific ESST team of Namur consists of 30 senior and junior researchers of the associated centres. The working language of the centres is either English or French. A scientific meeting is organised every 15 days. The objectives of this meeting are:
– to present the working progress of each thesis
– to discuss the scientific orientations taken (or to take)
– to receive the advice of the academics
– to set up the objectives of the work to be achieved for the following term
Between these meetings, our offices are open for you for any other advice that you would wish. During each meeting, the student is invited to present the progress of his (her) thesis during 15 to 30 minutes. This presentation should be supported either by a text or by a slides collection.
Important! To be in Namur doesn’t presuppose to speak French! The staff and the supervisors interact with the student in English and the literature proposed is in English… All the staff of the faculty speaks English.
Some examples of thesis topics
(Of course those topics are only given as examples – student is free to propose other subject. The definitive subject is the result of a negotiation between the student and the supervising professors)
Examples of general topics (for your information only…):
– Internet governance
– Societal impact of ambient intelligence system, rfid
– RFID regulation
– Governance of ICT
– Democracy and Internet
– The body and ICT (virtual reality, etc.)
– Risk and ICT (problem of risk associated with mobile phone, etc.)
– Ethics of informatics (pornography spamming, question of privacy, etc.)
– great controversies in technical development (nanotech, video surveillance)…
Examples of potential subject:
1. E-Democracy and E-Administration Assessment
University of Namur has progressively gained knowledge and experience in researches assessing IT projects in the field of administration, government and citizenship. The assessment is related to:
– Ex ante: analysis regarding the political, ethical, legal or organizational issues of IT projects in the concerned fields;
– Ex post: analysis on political, ethical, legal or organizational impacts of implemented projects in the concerned fields.
This topic should interest ESST students who want to assess (ex ante or ex post) a particular IT project in the concerned fields.
2. Governance of ICT (Internet)
University of Namur has progressively gained knowledge and experience in researches regarding the governance of ICT (Internet). Different topics have been studied in Namur University as, for instance:
– The role of the State in the regulation of Internet
– The ethical and legal issues in the regulation of internet (as privacy protection, code of conducts, children protection, etc.)
– The social divide issues (as cultural diversities, policy of accessibility, etc.)
– This topic should interest students willing to analyse a particular question relating to the Internet and more generally ICT governance.
The research concerns:
– Ex ante assessment regarding the opportunity of implementing intra and inter-organisational information systems’ projects in medical network of agents (assessment of ethical, legal and organisational issues of those projects);
– Ex post analysis on the ethical, legal, organisational and social impacts of the set up of intra and inter-organisational information systems on medical network of agents.
This topic should interest ESST students who will, either, to analyze the specific issues related to a healthcare policy /project or to conduct an assessment on the impacts of a policy/project.
4. Trust and virtuality
The dematerialization of exchanges and the subsequent new forms of “partnered” service delivery raise the question of the new foundations on which trust can be built with the users. The scientific literature seems to show that interpersonal trust, like institutional trust, can not support uncertainty stemming from these new types of partnered service delivery. Conceptually, this thesis will go deeply into different approaches of trust: the rational one (calculated trust and cognitive trust), the sociological one (institutional trust, emotional trust and inter-personal trust) and the legal approach.
Empirically, this thesis could question for instance an E-Gov platform or an E-commerce service in order to grasp the representations of trust that have influenced the designers and their translation in the organizational, technical and legal measures taken to reassure the user (e.g. privacy policies, rules concerning digital signatures, creation of surveillance committees for certain sectors).
5. Open source: socio-technical approach of open source “community”
This thesis will try to define a socio-technical frame to analyse the organization and regulation that govern the open-source communities. The thesis will first make an extensive state of the art on existing studies regarding organisation and regulation of OS Community in order to identify how those two dimensions are explored in the literature. Secondly, the thesis will move towards existing conceptual frameworks devoted to the analysis of networking collaboration in order to assess them and define an original theoretical framework to support the empirical analysis. The empirical analysis will consist in a case study made on an open source community.
6. Internet, Normalization and Governance
The global debate on Internet governance is in a testing state. There is a total lack of consensus about how to define Internet governance, and about which issues and institutions are and should be involved in what manner. Similarly, there is a lack of agreement as to whether there are significant problems with existing governance mechanisms, and whether there are any pressing but unresolved issues that need to be tackled through international cooperation. The goal of this proposed thesis is to develop an analysis of the Internet Governance issues facing society and to focus on the technical standardization problem. The aim would be to analyze the network of expert politics and association which are connecting with the management of domain names, IP numbers and protocols, today under the coordination of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.) How these technical standards have been, and are still, developed? The study will seek to develop and extensive analysis of the different component of the complicated network which managed the internet normalization, to understand the relation between the different bodies of that network and to treat of the normative problem of the conditions of a real democratic governance of the internet. In this regard, we believe that the focus of the ongoing discussions on “Internet Governance” should be on how the issues that have been identified, for example, Domain Names (DNS) and Internet Protocol (IP) address technical coordination, network security, and SPAM, can be addressed in the processes by which decisions related to the Internet are made, recognizing that there may some gaps and proposing some possible alternatives.
7. Governance, ethical problems and internet
This thesis will try to define a socio-technical frame to analyse the importance of ethics in the international discourse surrounding internet governance. The thesis will first make an extensive state of the art on existing studies regarding internet regulation in order to identify how the ethical dimensions are explored in the literature. Secondly, the thesis will move towards an analysis of the international reports concerning internet regulation. The thesis will seek to determine how the ethical problems are taken in account and from a normative perspective how they should be taken in account. The thesis will try to propose a reflection concerning the democratic and epistemological conditions that are necessary to allow ethical perspective to be taken in account.
8. Intelligent environment: reflexivity and moral issues
The first step of this analysis will proceed to an extensive review of the literature dedicated to the ethical and sociological problems raised by intelligent system.
Three main questions will structure this analysis of intelligent environment:
– The first one does concern the socio-cognitive and philosophical impact of this environment. To a certain extent, this intelligent environment suppresses the human and social reflexivity by confronting the human to a sort of adaptive and deterministic simulator, to an environment without exteriority. This raises important questions regarding the self determination and the human ability to give sense to its environment as generally admitted in the constructivism paradigm.
– The second question regards the moral limits that should be integrated into the design of this intelligent environment. Those limits have to be drawn regarding some ethical principles as human dignity and identity, human freedom self determination and human control on data regarding its behaviour and habits.
– The third question is more pragmatic and regards the ethical norms and the moral responsibilities principles that should guide the designer and the owner/user of those intelligent environments. It regards also the social acceptability of this type of system. The issues regarding potential manipulation and abuse of control should be addressed and correctly analysed in order to draw the ethical lines to follow in the design and in the ownership of this system.
Short description of the university
Founded in 1831, University of Namur is one of the largest higher education and research organization in Belgium, and has a long standing reputation of solid knowledge production and dissemination on society, science and technology. The university is located in the French speaking city of Namur, capital of the Walloon Region. University of Namur is a middle-size university (4.500 students) and one of the big actors of the new “Académie Universitaire de Louvain” that offers the most extensive study opportunities in the French-speaking community of Belgium.
The main library of the University is the Moretus Plantin Library.
A specific library in Science, Technology and Society does exist in the CITA office and in the Pr. Ph. Goujon office (concerning in particular governance concept and theory, epistemology of ICT, history of ICT, societal analysis, etc.)
List of core literature (for information only)
References are only provided as sample and mustn’t be considered as and exhaustive list of reference – the Namur staff will give to student a precise list in function of his/her subject
– MacKenzie D., Wajcman J., The Social Shaping of Technology. Open University Press
– Bijker, W. (2001) Understanding Technological Culture through a Constructivist View of science, technology, and Society. In: Cutcliffe, S. H., Mitcham, C. Visions of STS. Counterpoints in science, technology and society studies. (pp. 19-35). State University of New York Press, Albany
– Bijker, W. (2006) Why and How Technology Matters. Chapter for Goodin R., Tilly C. Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford University Press.
– Bijker, W., Hughes T., Pinch T., (1989). Common Themes in Sociological and Historical Studies in Technology. The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts. In: The Social Construction of Technological Systems. New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. (pp. 28-50) Cambridge MA.: MIT Press.
– Bijker, W.E. (1995) Democratization of Technology. Who are the experts? Extended version of paper presented at seminar “Expertenkultur und Demokratie” Aachen 23-2-1995.
– Bijker, W.E., Hughes, T.P., Pinch T., The Social Construction of Technological Systems. New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. (pp. 51-82). Cambridge MA.: MIT Press.
– Boudourides, M.A. (2003), Governace in Science and Technology Retrieved March 24, 2006 from the World Wide Web: www.math.upatras.gr/~mboudour/,
– Chandler D. (2000) Technological or Media Determinism, Retrieved April 12, 2006 from the World Wide Web: www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tecdet.html
– Cohen J. & Sabel C. (1999) Directly Deliberative Poliarchy. Retrieved June 16, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www2.law.columbia.edu/sabel/papers/DDP.html
– Durant, J. & Joss, S. (1995). Public participation in science: the role of consensus conference in Europe. Science Museum London, pp.9-13, 75-80.
– Eike, M. (2000) GM Food: Controversy and Uncertainty. Complexity and Scientific Value Diversity in the GM Food Debate. Paper for the 3rd POSTI International Conference, London, UK.
– Fung A. & Wright E. (2001), Deepening Democracy: Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, Politics Society, 29: 5 – 41
– Habermas, J. (1996) Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. The MIT Press.
– Hage, M. et al. (2006) Participatory Approaches in Governance and in Knowledge Production: What makes the difference? Department of Political Sciences of the Environment. Nijmegen School of Management, Radbud University Nijmegen. Retrieved March 24, 2006 from the World Wide Web:http://www.ru.nl/contents/pages/141634/gapwp06-03.pdf
– Hendriks, C. (2002), The ambiguous role of civil society in deliberative democracy. Paperr presented to the Jubilee conference of the Ausralasian Political Studies Association, Australian National University, Canberra, 2002; Retrieved July 11, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://arts.anu.edu.au/sss/apsa/Papers/hendriks.pdf#search=%22habermas%20deliberative%20democracy%20%2Bcivil%20society%22
– Latour, B. (1987). Science in Action. Harvard/London: Open University Press.
– Lord, C. (2000). Legitimacy, Democracy and the EU: when abstract questions become practical policy problems. Department of Politics, University of Leeds. Retrieved June 16, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.one-europe.ac.uk/pdf/P3Lord.PDF
– Misa, T. et al. (1995). Managing Technology in Society. The Approach of Constructive Technology Assessment. Pinter Publishers. London and New York
– Sabel, C. & Zeitlin J. (2006) Learning from Difference: The New Architecture of Experimentalist Governance in the European Union. Paper prepared for presentation at the ARENA seminar, Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo. Available here
– Schomberg. R. Democratising Technology. Theory and Practice of a Deliberative Technology Policy. (pp. 93-120) International Center for Human and Public Affairs. Hengelo/ Buenos Aires
– Smismans, S. (2006) Reviewing normative theories on civil society participation. NEWGOV. New Modes of Governance. Integrated Project – Citizens and Governance in the Knowledge-Based Society. Retrieved June 11, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.eu-newgov.org/
– Stirling, A. (1999). On science and precaution in the management of technological risk. SPRU, Brighton, Report for ESTO, 56.
– Technology & Democracy. The use and impact of technology assessment in Europe (1992). Kandrup, Copenhagen
Testimonies and abstract of previous ESST thesis in Namur
1. Exploring E- democracy: The internet and the empowerment of civil society groups
Abstract: The civil society, one of the stakes of democracy, faces critical problems, threatening it as an actor in local and international arenas. Technology has been one of the solutions for socio-political problems. So, information technology, and specifically Internet, is adopted strongly, and in a determinist way, by many governments and civil society groups to confront these problems. The study shows that the relation between civil society and Internet is not a linear one, i.e. Internet does not empower civil society as such. This relation depends on the nature of the political regime where civil society groups are working, and the extent of freedoms and political rights they enjoy, which affect how the group conceives Internet and how it benefits from it.
Testimony: My name is Rehab Sakr.
When we were asked to choose one of the Universities of the ESST network, I chose Namur for two reasons: firstly it is very close to the University of Maastricht (the mother University for the ESST), and the university where I spent the first semester which gave me a good chance to keep a kind of interaction with Maastricht. The second reason was to develop my French although the study there is completely in English, living in Namur helps really in developing the level of my French. When I went to Namur I found very warm welcome and very well-designed program prepared for me and my colleague, each of us had her/his own office with computer and all facilities for the work were provided. Madame Lobet also helped me to find a room in the students’ house. The staff at the Institute was all one family and I had good relations with all of them. The most important was the way of supervision, both Mrs. Claire-Lobet Maris and Mr. Philippe Goujon were available all the time, we had a weekly meeting to present my work, moreover, we were having the lunch every day together and during the lunch time we could discuss many of the ideas of the thesis. In addition, both supervisors were always willing to provide their students with references, books and other materials needed for conducting the work.
2. Beyond expert regulation for democratic technology: The case of Radio Frequency Identification Technology
Abstract: In this thesis, the way in which the process of governance of new technologies is addressed by different states is examined and the framing of this process is analyzed. To achieve it the answers to the following questions are sought and provided: how can the perception of technology influence the governance process? What is the role of scientific experts and civil society in this process? The research is based on the analysis of three reports of RFID technology. These are the study on Security Aspects and Prospective Applications of RFID Systems conducted by the German Federal Office for Information Security, RFID Radio Frequency Identification: Applications and Implications for Consumers report from the American Federal Trade Commission, and Radio Frequency Identification report issued by the British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. By analyzing these reports I intend to identify the differences and similarities in the RFID technology vision and the process of its evaluation which might influence the respective policy. It should be emphasized; the number of the reports concerning RFID technology is still very limited. However, the careful and detailed evaluation of the three main reports should provide an ample source for the analysis. In addition, the institutional conditions which must be satisfied to open the debate about technology and for democratic, deliberative governance to take place are explored.
Testimony: My name is Natalia Zborovska.
The University of Namur offers a wide range of specialization topics. There are no formal lectures organized for the ESST students at the beginning of the semester, however the private meetings with the university professors and researchers not only largely compensate for that, but also greatly facilitate the rather difficult task of writing a thesis. The times and the frequency of the meetings are agreed with the university staff, but students can have as many meetings as they consider necessary for the progress of their study. The supervisors are really available whenever needed and are always ready to support, guide, and teach in function of the precise needs of the student. However, at the same time a lot of freedom is given to students to make their own choice of a subject, literature, case studies and even work organization. Students can write their thesis, do the research and study at the university or, if they prefer, can come only for weekly meetings. Moreover, students are provided with their own desk, computer with the access to the Internet, and cards for free photocopies at the university. This facilitates contact with the supervisors and reduces the costs of stay. Professional, friendly and supportive staff of University of Namur will without any doubt do their best to encourage and help ESST students to obtain their Master degree with good results. Namur city is really a pleasant city.
3. The development of e-Health in Europe: Moving from an economic approach to a patient oriented focus?
Abstract: In the last years, the discussion about the future of healthcare systems has revived. It is nowadays acknowledged that health care is a major issue for a country’s welfare status in all levels, either economically and socially, or demographically. We live in an age that the health care sector demands on reducing costs and simultaneously on improving his quality and access to all. The challenges that the health care systems have to face include the rising demand for health and social services, the management of huge amounts of health information that need to be available securely, accessibly, and in a timely manner at the point of need and finally the need to provide the best possible healthcare under limited budgetary conditions.
The appearance of information technology into society, and consequently into healthcare, has led to the fact that the term e-health is increasingly used and is promoted as a solution to some of the above-mentioned problems. Interestingly enough, although the problems of the healthcare systems are acknowledged and also the introduction of technology is thought to be the solution to the problems; mere attention has been directed to investigating the development of e-health in the European Union and the premises on which this development took place.
Nonetheless, examining how the concept has changed is important as it helps us to understand the general developments in the field and it gives an overview on which premises the future policies in the field could be based on. Thus, this thesis discusses the development of e-health in Europe and the premises on which is it based. Consequently, it examines among others, how e-health is developed in a policy level, which are the actors that can be identified in the policy level, and it examines how this policy level is implemented in reality through some best cases. The thesis tries, by focusing in the European area, to answer questions as: who are acknowledged as relevant actors of e-health both in a policy level and in a real life case level? Thus, a relevant question, which is discussed, is if the patients for whom the technology is intended, involved.
Furthermore, in an undersized abstract/theoretical level, the thesis discusses the changes in the concepts of health as a change in power and examines the development of e-health as part of a more systemic change. This more general change highlights the movement from a predominantly centralised system towards a more individualised/personalised system. Additionally, in trying to explain this change, the thesis introduces the concept of governmentality, which is very important as a general question that arises in all aspects of our life when we use new information technologies is: How in a state so complex can we have a democratic control of so complicated systems?
Testimony: My name is Charalampos Ipektsidis.
As you probably already know the ESST programme is a very interesting programme, which provides you with an added value according to the specialization you will choose for your 2nd semester. In the first semester you will learn important things about technology, governance and how to analyse things, but the real added value to your professional career stems from your specialization. I do not know what your initial background is, but for me ESST has proved very useful both in an academic but also in a professional/pragmatic level.
I was very interested in European matters and policy analysis. Therefore, I choose as my thesis subject a field where I could combine these interests I had. I opted for Namur and e-health, as it was a relatively new subject and there I could combine the interests I had. I wrote my thesis in the area of e-health where I analyzed the policies and actions of the European Union in the field for the last 15 years.
The experience of doing my second semester specialization in Namur was a very pleasant one. First of all, academics are very skilled in their fields and have a good ear for problems that you may encounter during the writing phase of your thesis. Secondly, a very important fact for me was that every 1 to 2 weeks a group meeting took place between the supervisors, and the students writing their thesis where progress on their drafts was discussed, potential problems and questions were analysed and also some remarks for further exploration of ideas in the one or the other dimension were provided.
Additionally, the students among themselves could in these meetings exchange ideas and if familiar with the subject propose also some points that could be interesting. Moreover, these group meetings were not the only opportunity to meet with the professors but we had also individual appointments and since we could do our research in offices of the PhD students, we were integrated in the faculty and the academic personnel and thus could discuss ideas with the researchers working in the faculty. Finally, based on your thesis subject the professors may be able to help you gain access to knowledge that otherwise would be very difficult to find.
Another interesting point in order to select Namur is the fact that the city is very close to the heart of Europe, Brussels and near France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany. This is very important as you have the opportunity to visit places you may have not visited before and to learn also other cultures.
I believe that ESST and the second semester specialization in Namur was very useful as I learned new approaches and I had the opportunity to better combine my previous knowledge with my interests. Furthermore, I learned more about how to approach topics combining technology and society, also by using some philosophy techniques to structure analysis of topics, which is linked also to my current professional activities.
Course contact person
– Prof. Philippe Goujon, Doctor and director of research in Philosophy and epistemology firstname.lastname@example.org
– Prof. Claire Lobet Marris, Sociologist and Doctor in organizational sciences email@example.com
– Prof. Dr. Yves Poullet, Doctor in Law and Bachelor in Philosophy firstname.lastname@example.org
Namur representative in the ESST network
Prof. Philippe Goujon, Doctor and director of research in Philosophy and epistemology (email@example.com)