Making IT Personal: Radically Reflexive Resilience

Monika Büscher

Lancaster University, UK

Wednesday May 22, 2019


The 21st Century has been labelled the century of disasters. Yet individuals and societies are doing too little, too late to prepare for or prevent disasters. One reason is a lack of personalisation. People do not feel that disasters will affect them. This is particularly true with regard to slow-motion disasters such as climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, or antimicrobial resistance, but acute emergency warnings and evacuation orders can also be met by optimistic bias (‘It won’t happen to me/here’). Personalisation and intelligent context-driven computing can triangulate personal risk factors (such as location and vulnerability) with predictive disaster risk data to dynamically issue personalised warnings and guidance. It can save lives. However, a ‘solutionist’ turn to computational personalisation could further entrench problematic patterns of disaster risk governance and a false sense of security.

As the Anthropocene unfolds, many slow-motion disasters are producing more, and more intense, acute disasters, from extreme weather to epidemics. These arise from the cumulative personal lives of 7.7 billion humans, with risks highly unequally distributed. In this talk, I show that attention to grassroots creativity that makes responsibility for risk and risk governance personal can enhance communities’ capacity to live well with risk. Technologies of participation that support crisis informatics, citizen science, and collective intelligence, for example around environmental monitoring, can join with efforts of personalisation. By delineating hopeful projects that develop technologies of humility, we can widen the scope for innovation and raise the bar of ambition for personalised and context-driven computing to support radically reflexive resilience.

About the Speaker

Monika Büscher  is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University in the UK, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research. She is the academic lead for the UK ESRC Social Research Impact Accelerator Account at Lancaster University (2019-2022) and leads research on social practices of mobility and risk governance in a range of projects, e.g.  isITethical?  (2017-2018), SecInCoRe (2014-2017), BRIDGE  (2011-2015). Monika initiated the platform, which develops guidance for digital ethics and responsible innovation in collaboration with the  Public Safety Communications Europe Network. She received an honorary doctorate from Roskilde University, Denmark for her work on participatory design. She edits the book series Changing Mobilities (Routledge) with Peter Adey.