- Programme studied: PhD Information Systems
- Year of Graduation: 2014
Silvia Masiero defended her PhD thesis “Imagining the state through digital technologies: A case of state-level computerisation in the Indian Public Distribution System” in 2014. After that she held positions at the LSE and Loughborough University, before joining the University of Oslo in August 2020. In this blog she describes her career journey, the biggest challenge she has faced, and what her current research is focused on.
Current job title and description of what this role entails:
Associate Professor at the University of Oslo in the Department of Informatics, where I hold research, teaching and administrative roles.
Tell us about your career journey since graduating from LSE.
My LSE journey continued for another two years after receiving my PhD, with two concomitant positions as Teaching Fellow in International Development and Research Officer in Information Systems. Continuously fuelled by the enthusiasm of my LSE students, I brought my passion for subjects in the space of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) to my next job as Lecturer in International Development at Loughborough University. At the same time, my passion for human rights – and their translation in the space of science and technology – fostered my current focus on data justice, on which my ongoing research is based. It is with a data justice research agenda that I entered my current position as Associate Professor at the University of Oslo, Department of Informatics.
Can you provide a short summary of your PhD thesis and how it shaped the direction of your academic career?
My PhD thesis was titled “Imagining the state through digital technologies: A case of state-level computerisation in the Indian Public Distribution System”. It was based on fieldwork conducted on India’s largest food security programme, the Public Distribution System (PDS). I investigated the way recipients of anti-poverty programmes came to “see”, and indeed physically experience the state of technology through which such crucial programmes are delivered. A lens firmly centred on the user - and especially on structurally vulnerable users faced with technologies that mediated core aspects of their lives. This has informed my research in the present day, continuing to inspire my questions on the justice and injustice of the outcomes produced by “developmental” ICTs. My supervisor, and now dear friend and colleague, Dr Shirin Madon, has been a guiding light through my journey; from her I learnt to see technology in the form of its mediation of human lives.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and what have you learned from it?
Good question! As a researcher with a background in development studies (I hold a MSc Development Management, obtained from the LSE prior to my PhD), finding an “identity” in the field of Information Systems took longer than expected. Decisions on which journals to target, which communities to join, which conferences to go to was not straightforward at the beginning of my career. The strength of the ICT4D community, as well as the emergence, in the last ten years, of a data justice community that closely matches my passion for human rights in technology, have enabled me to find the identity that I have longed for. I am now a happy member of both communities, which create fantastic occasions for my research to grow!
What is your current research focus?
I am currently working on my first book, which examines different forms of injustice produced by digital identity systems. At the same time, it examines diverse forms of resistance that emerge in response to such injustices, inviting the reader to imagine forms of “fair ID” that combat the detrimental outcomes that digital identity produces. Moving from paper to book writing has been a challenge, but one that I have fully embraced, especially as it yields beautiful learning experiences for me. I continue to pursue an ICT4D research agenda, centred especially on the achievement of justice in technology, and how this can become a reality for those bearing the repercussions of structural weakness.
Share with us your fondest memory of the Department of Management.
There are SO many. The friends I made, long-lasting friendships and professional relations that have remained very solid over time. The chats in our PhD space, the nights out in Ye Olde White Horse. The long conversations on research and life, and the way they still shape my thinking. The training at the LSE Boxing Club (this was not in the department, but boxing gave me the strength and discipline that I carry in my academic work today!) All this, and much more, remains in my heart and I cannot forget. LSE is awesome!
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