Producing Individuals, Eliminating Difference: A Study of the Design Aims and Assumptions Behind the Enactment of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

By Gemma John.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) came into force in January 2005, and provides the Scottish public with a new right of access to information. Despite its worthy aims, FOI practitioners implementing the legislation in public authorities across Scotland have been faced with resistance, had to negotiate difference of opinion, and deal with displeased end-users who feel they are denied what they were promised. As is the case with law, lawyers, citizens, civil servants and activists designed FOISA with specific aims in mind. Stakeholders sought to reproduce a particular model of society where citizenship is ‘transparent’, citizens are ‘empowered’ and able to reap the benefits of openness and shared knowledge, and ‘individuals’ with the same knowledge are in a position to oversee and govern the workings of government and each other. However, certain assumptions were made and matters arising point to issues of subjectivity and ‘relations’ that, although crucial to the workings of FOISA, were not taken account of at the design stage. Drawing from fieldwork, I argue that FOI practitioners are aware of the relations that make them different from and act differently to one another, and information that end-users receive is a consequence of these relations.

Keywords: Knowledge, Governance, Freedom of Information, Transparent Citizenship, Individuals

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.93-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 490.218KB).

Gemma John

PhD researcher, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK


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