The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Henman: Governmentalities of Gov 2.0: policy implications


Henman, P., University of Queensland, Australia


Governments internationally are now scrambling to identify ways in which Web 2.0 technologies may be utilised by governments to achieve governmental and political objectives. In Britain the Power of Information Taskforce has examined new ways of managing and using information. A Government 2.0 Taskforce reported to the Australian Federal government in December 2009. Alongside these deliberations by government agencies and committees, have been political activists, businesses and other interested parties, engaging in debates and conferences about what Web 2.0 can and should mean for government in the 21st Century. These players and events include the US-based IBM Center for the Business of Government and the high powered gov2.0 Summit (Washington DC 9-10 September 2009).

These deliberations and debates seek to mobilise a range of different political and economic agendas, and as such view government’s use of Web 2.0 and associated objectives differently. Some seek to advance profits among IT companies, others refer to democratic ideas and other to accountability and transparency, while others speak of enhanced government service delivery and policy making. This paper utilises a governmentality analysis to identify the different political discourses and rationalities embedded within these various reports and discussions.

Michel Foucault coined the term governmentality to refer to “a way or system of thinking about the nature of the practice of government…capable of making some form of activity thinkable and practicable” (Gordon 1991: 2). Foucault’s conceptualisation with its added emphasis on practices and conduct, is to be contrasted to ‘political ideology’. The author has previously used a governmentality approach to examine discourses of e-government bring to light the governmental rationalities that such discourses seek to enact. This paper will conduct a similar analysis of government web 2.0 discourses to reveal the various governmental rationalities and objectives implicit in such discourses. For example, it will identify what modes of government do they seek to enact, for what purposes, through what techniques and to what outcomes?

The paper will conclude by outlining the policy implications of these various Gov2.0 governmentalities and highlight alternative governmentalities that could be mobilised in contemporary e-government.