Prof.Liesbet van Zoonen (part time Sociology department) to lead international identity management study

Professor Liesbet van Zoonen of Loughborough University and a team of colleagues from Dundee, Essex and Northumbria universities have received a £1.36m grant to examine taboos and desires around future technologies of ‘identity management’.

The three-year IMPRINTS project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). An additional grant has been awarded by the Department of Homeland Security in America to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to simultaneously conduct the study in the US.

IMPRINTS (Identity Management: Public Responses to Identity Technologies and Services) aims to assess how and why UK and US publics will engage with particular future practices, services and technologies of identity management, while resisting others. 

Iris and full body scans, and face or voice recognition have already become well-known practice, but innovations like implantable chips, odour scans, online ‘object’-passwords and mobile identity sharing are on the horizon. It is unclear whether and why members of the public will embrace these innovations or reject them.

Professor Liesbet Van Zoonen, who holds the chair in  Popular Culture at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and  Media and Communications at Loughborough University, explains:

“There is a peculiar paradox between the eager sharing of personal details on social network sites, and the deep anxieties about, for instance, biometric identification or a national identity card.

“In this project we aim to gain a better understanding of such anxieties and appetites, and understand the way citizens will respond to new identity management technologies, services and practices in order to promote trustworthy and pleasurable processes of identity verification.”

To achieve this understanding, researchers will work with stakeholders from civil society and government, security and commercial sectors in both countries.

Because of the rapid advance in identity management technologies, services and practices (IM-TSP), the research team will draw upon future scenarios as presented in film, literature, consumer trend reports, policy reports, research, and security exploration to first map out the expected landscape of identity management. 

A range of interview stimuli including online avatars and art installations will be used to probe taboos and desires among the public. The research will then produce bespoke instruments for interactive policy, prototype and design development.

The project brings together experts in design, computer science, political science, media, psychology, sociology, and risk management, and findings will inform future government and security policy on identity management and its implementation, as well as provide resources for further research.

The project commenced on 1 September 2011 and was included in the recent report Big Ideas for the Future which was published by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Universities UK.
The report explores the excellent research currently taking place in UK higher education and what it will mean for us in 20 years’ time. It also demonstrates the value of public investment in higher education and research and the positive impact this has on economic growth and the social wellbeing of the UK. s

Publicatiedatum: 07 oktober 2011

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