“The most profound legacy of the dominance of bureaucratic forms of organisation over the last two hundred years is that it has made the intuitive division between rational, technical means and the ultimately irrational ends to which they are put seem like common sense” — David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules

Filling in the forms and appropriately sign-posting the anticipated innovation and ‘deliverables’ of the R2J project has been no small task and consumed a lot of the person-hours we have been able to dedicate to the project in the its first three months.

Having completed the rigmarole and had our first quarter signed off by our monitoring officer, our claim for the first quarter of our project was rejected by the Innovate UK claims team because the Independent Accountants Report was submitted as a PDF that didn’t have our accountant’s logo on every page. A requirement that we didn’t know in advance. This now means that we have to deal with a £20,000+ shortfall in our cashflow this month. The resubmitted document was accepted 48 hours later but only after we asked the claims team to check their spam folder where our resubmitted document had been directed. …

What we have seen this week with the #HMCTSdisruption is an example of what we have seen previously elsewhere: unfortunate and unintended consequences of technology cannot be prevented (see our musings about this here).

While HMCTS continues to respond to calls from frantic lawyers, their clients and litigants in person, what we are witnessing is something that we predict will happen often as technology becomes further entrenched in the makeup of not just our justice systems, but more generally, our societies and the frameworks that support these societies.

Those commissioning the system(s) did not expect a digital scale and speed to the spread of usage because they assumed a gatekeeping role for professionals/help agencies based on the existing model. Big Bang is an unintended consequence when you have not deployed digital only service(s) with the public before. Scaleability is of course a key concern for system designers but they probably based their models on the old people and paper based system usage figures. The speed and scale of digital diffusion of awareness and action is not something they will have understood or anticipated. …

Recently friends, colleagues, customers and even a journalist or two have asked us — did Cambridge Analytica really change the outcome an election? Was it possible for the company to use the detailed information about millions of people contained within Facebook to understand and then target Facebook users in such a way as to influence the popular vote? It is more than year since the conversations about this question began to occur and we have consistently voiced our collective opinion that the simple answer is no, Cambridge Analytica did not use the data it gleaned from its access to Facebook data to to achieve these things. …


Etic Lab

Consultancy, Research and Design. Political Software, Bots, AI, Legal Tech and Mass Comms