BACKGROUND

The Boundaries Observatory is about understanding what technology does and what people do in relation to it, and as a consequence how their understandings of the fundamental notions relating to human relations that are the focus of the work may be changing. These relations will involve issues of identity, privacy, trust, reputation, responsibility, community, gender and fairness. The aim of the Boundaries Observatory inquiry is to produce new knowledge, new ways of conveying that knowledge and new stimuli to ask deeper questions among policy makers and anyone else who has to make strategic decisions. In this way, technocracy can be exposed as irrational. Technocratic policy tends to ignore the deep aspects of human experience, focussing on behavioural change produced by technological implementation, at the expense of more nuanced exploration of changes in the understandings of fundamental notions that drive these behavioural changes. Though this may give an impression of scientific rationality, the deeper relations between human understandings, human behaviour and technological implementation are more complex.

The Observatory is open to all-comers, and much of the work proposed will focus on the proactive inclusion of third party stakeholders, and the creation and cultivation of the community of participants. This positioning of the work as “actively open”, is intended not only to facilitate the participation of the wide variety of different social groups and individuals, and from a variety of different disciplines, for whom an understanding of the ways in which our digital future is being shaped is vital, but also to create the necessary communication links between the work being undertaken in the Observatory and the wider society. This openness extends to the nature of the exploration involved in the Observatory which will be interdisciplinary in order to encourage the loosing of attachments to established theories and models, whilst fostering renewed critical investigation into the explanatory and predictive power of new theories and models.