Disaster response can involve extreme physical and digital mobilities. In the aftermath of the 2015 Germanwings crash, for example, hundreds of emergency personnel from local and international agencies converged to scour two square miles of steep, rocky terrain for debris and DNA. Surrounding such physical mobilities are often myriad efforts to mobilise information and coordinate actions through digital technologies. New capabilities for mobile work that emerge in this context can be very positive, but they can also raise complex ethical, legal and social challenges. In collaborative research with practitioners, information technology developers and interdisciplinary teams of researchers, I explore what it means to do work on the move in crisis management to gain insight into the relationship between embodied practices of mobile work and the immaterial im|mobilities of data. This takes the form of engaged ‘speculative’ sociology and involves a mixture of mobile methods, including participant observation and participant intervention, ways of ‘following the information’, affirmative critique, disclosive ethics, utopia as method, ethical and privacy impact assessment, and speculative design. These methods are a means for ‘staying with the trouble’ of often ambiguous emergent ‘intra-actions’ and effects. In this talk I provide examples from this collaborative research to explore how we can combine methods or devise new methods to capitalise on diverse forms of data to build rich and practically as well as theoretically fruitful understandings of digitally-suffused working life.
Monika Büscher is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University, UK. She is Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research and Associate Director at the Institute for Social Futures. Her research explores the digital dimension of contemporary ‘mobile lives’ with a focus on IT ethics and risk governance. Her interdisciplinary, experimental, engaged public sociology explores and shapes socio-technical futures. She currently leads research on the informationalization of risk governance, exploring opportunities and challenges in national and international projects (BRIDGE, SecInCoRe). Her theoretical orientation builds on mobilities research, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, science and technology studies, feminist and non-representational theory, and design research. She has published many articles and books, including Ethnographies of Diagnostic Work, Mobile Methods and Design Research. Synergies from Interdisciplinary Perspectives. In 2011 she received an honorary doctorate for her work in participatory design from Roskilde University, Denmark. She edits the book series Changing Mobilities(Routledge) with Peter Adey.