Doing Research, Doing Politics: ICT Research as a Form of Activism

  • Juliet Webster
Keywords: ICTs, politics, research, engaged research, values


 Why do we do research into ICTs and society at all?  Apart from advancing our analytical understanding of technological and social change, for many researchers, social studies of technology provide a way of supplying evidence for social policy, or shaping social practice.  Even if we do not always make it explicit, for many of us, our research is both political and personal.


In this paper, I consider the ways in which social and political values shape research questions and research methods.   Drawing on examples of recent feminist and other research which has investigated the employment relations of technological change, I discuss the academic and political ambitions of the work, the recognition of interests and the involvement of stakeholders, and the relationship between researchers and ‘users’ of the research.  I reflect on the importance of revealing and explicating the politics of ICT research, particularly in the context of imminent economic and social restructuring.

Author Biography

Juliet Webster

Juliet Webster is Visiting Professor on the Gender and Information Technology Programme at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Open University of Catalunya.  She is also the Director of Work & Equality Research in London.  She specialises in research and policy development on the working lives of women across the European Union, particularly the actions and policies necessary to improve their working conditions and prospects for advancement.  She has held positions at the universities of Edinburgh, East London, Vienna, and Trinity College, Dublin, in DG Employment of the European Commission, and at the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA) in London.  Her research currently focuses mainly on women in IT professions, and, at the other end of the labour market, on those in routine service jobs.  Her books include Shaping Women’s Work: Gender, Employment and Information Technology and The Information Society in Europe: Work and Life in an Age of Globalisation.