Working with the Fogbow : Design and Reconfiguration of services and Participation in E-Government

Abstract: This thesis is about the metaphors of the rainbow and the fogbow, investigations and evaluations, public Internet monitors, writing women, reflections and discussions about politics, design and democracy. It is also about the ongoing re-structuring of participation in service design within the development of E-Government. The aim behind the drive towards E-Government is to modernise administration and make it more efficient. The transformation and modernisation of public services are proclaimed to bring about a change in services based on a 'citizen-centred approach.' In such a process, communication between citizens and public authorities should play an essential role. Themes such as accountability, accessibility and participation all form part of the reconfiguration and at the same time these themes is shaped by the transformation. The papers in this thesis discuss, in different ways, how this reconfiguration is enacted in practice. Theories and methodologies from feminist theories, participatory design and informatics, are used in order to develop broader and more complex understandings of ongoing development within E-Government. Introduction to the papers Paper I Everyday Dialogue and Design for Co-Operative Use: An Evaluation of the Public Internet Monitor Project Accessibility is a central issue in the achievement of democracy, i.e. with respect to the opportunity for and right to 'access' to new technology and information – an argument also used when justifying the Public Internet Monitor Project. 'Access' in this context refers not only to purely physical access to new technology and information, it is also about the opportunity to take part in community business on several different levels. The present sub-report presents the project and its background. The paper also discusses the way in which the Public Internet Monitor Project as a whole has contributed to the development of a social interface or contact surface between citizens and public authorities, as well as how it has stimulated processes of change within public administration and in contacts between public authorities and citizens. Among the questions raised during the evaluation are; how local networks and activities can be stimulated by the citizen monitor and how the user's ideas and experience can be utilised in local adaptations so that they become an essential part of a continuous development of services and technology. The paper also describes the linked chains of responsibility exemplified in the excerpts from the interviews. These also include final users as a means of creating a personalised service adapted to local praxis and user environments. The question is posed "is it possible to talk in terms of interactivity on several different levels, not only in the sense of transmitting information or communicating, but also as a means of creating a relation-based interactivity?" Paper II Reconfiguration of Citizenship: Rights and Duties in Development of Public Services This paper presents the case of the cleaner in the library and some examples of feedback failures. Access to information, technology, and to some degree, participation in development of new services, is a central issue in the prevailing eGovernment discourse. This vision also comprises the idea of the active, contributing citizen and considers the development of local public participation as a process of co-construction of citizenship and services engaging several actors on different levels. At the same time, access must be seen as a contemporaneous process of inclusion and exclusion, a defining and drawing up of the boundaries of a new electronically mediated membership, where access is becoming a prerequisite for activating citizenship, transforming "the right to have access" into a "duty to participate", not just for citizens but for the employees who must manage the reconfiguration of citizenship and relations. The foundations for participation, however, turn out to be relatively restricted in practice. The original title of the paper was: Co-Construction of Citizenship: Rights and duties in development of public services. Paper III Consulting the Citizens – Relationship-based Interaction in the Development of E-Government This paper investigates current practices for involving citizens in the development of web-based services in public administration and tries to track their motives. With respect to democratisation, I argue that there is a large potential in adopting participatory design methods for establishing relation-based interaction between administration and citizens. The paper presents an analysis of E-Government initiatives. More particularly it explores the discourse of the materials surrounding these initiatives, particularly with respect to value systems derived from the marketing perspective contra democratic values. It demonstrates that conventional images of democracy have only a background role to play in such efforts. Paper IV Mapping Out and Constructing Needs in the Development of Online Public Services This paper is based on a study concerning experiences of, access to and requests for public services on-line, within the RISI+ Project. The paper presents a pilot study of the setting up of public services in the local context of the county of Blekinge, in southeast Sweden. The study was conducted as a peer evaluation of a selection of methods, or types of needs analysis, used by different actors and producers of public services in order to gain a picture of various needs among users. One part of this study focuses on the views expressed by service providers about the dialogue between themselves and citizens on the provision of public services. This is compared with the practical use or, in some cases, lack of use, of explicit techniques, such as questionnaires, larger surveys and work carried out with the help of focus groups. A basic question is, 'what role does citizen involvement play in the analysis of needs and services and in the choice of design?'. Parts of this report were presented in a poster display at the NordiCHI 2000 conference, "Design versus design" in Stockholm in October 2000 and, in a different version, as a work-in-progress report at the PDC 2000 (Participatory Design) Conference "Bringing in more voices" , in New York in November. Paper V Making E-Government Happen : Everyday Co-Development of Services, Citizenship and Technology This paper describes the use of a metaphorical figure used in different contexts as part of a discussion of working relationships of the co-development of services, citizenship and technology change. The paper discusses the challenge of developing a supportive infrastructure for the ongoing local adaptation and development of public services as citizens use them. Developing supportive structures for co-operation in the design task involves incorporating ways of including the general public, mapping out networks, developing tailorable software and cultivating shop-floor management. If continuous joint co-development of services is made a central part of the co-development of services, citizenship and technology, this also blurs the boundaries between governmental and municipal authorities, private sector employees and other actors within, for example, the voluntary sector - but above all, continuous joint co-development blurs the boundary between citizens and local authorities. The citizens become key figures in the 'web of connections' that makes up the design, content and use of new technologies. In the discourse on participation in E-Government, few reflections are made concerning the basic issue of the democratic values that could be gained by early involvement of local employees and citizens in developmental work or technology-based changes. Making more deliberate use of participatory design methods for incorporating multi-perspectives in service design as well as technology production and use could be a way to stimulate a broader, more inclusive and sustainable participation in local development of E-Government. Paper VI Discourses and Cracks - A Case Study of Information Technology and Writing Women in a Regional Context This is the first of the papers I wrote, where empirical material from a local IT project is discussed and mirrored against the dominating discourses of information technology. Paper VI discusses information technology as a political and practical discourse, which is in part shaped by the repetition of an exalted rhetoric. This repetitive discursive model can be distinguished in global, regional and local contexts and reflects an optimistic belief in technology as an independent power that automatically furthers democratic development. The second part of the paper presents empirical material and experiences from the Women Writing on the Net-project (this was included in the framework of the DIALOGUE project, which was partially funded by ISPO/EC). The aim of the project was to create a virtual space for women on the Internet, and to explore the writing process in terms of aims, tool and method. The method of approach incorporates reflections and discussions about empowerment, democracy and representation of women. This contributed to a more complex understanding of the values of the predominant IT discourses, and revealed the "cracks" in, and possibilities of feminist redefinitions of, these values.