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Professor Kirstie Ball

Professor Kirstie  Ball

Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Professor of Organization
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Computing & Communications

Professional biography

Kirstie is Professor of Organization. She joined The Open University Business School in 2004 following posts at Birmingham, Warwick and Aston Business Schools. Within the school she has written for Managing Research in the Workplace (B865), The human resources professional (B855), Introduction to business studies (B120) and Strategic human resource management (B827). She was the Director of the FBL Research Degrees Programme from 2008 - 2011 and is now the director of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP). CRISP is a collaboration between the OUBS, and the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh.

Kirstie’s research has always focused on surveillance in and around organisations: As an ESRC-funded PhD student she researched the electronic monitoring of employees (1993-1996), and then as an ESRC Management Research Fellow she studied Human Resource Information Systems (1997-2000). She is currently Institutional PI on two EU-FP7 projects, Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies (IRISS) and Surveillance, Privacy and Security (SurPRISE). She is also Institutional PI on the C$2,500,000 Major Collaborative Research Initiative entitled ‘The New Transparency’ based at Queens University, Canada. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the project runs for 7 years from 2008 – 2015 and will support collaborative research between 30 of the leading names in the surveillance studies field. As part of a five person research team from FBL and Maths, Computing and Technology, she has just been awarded £717,000 by the EPSRC NEMODE programme to create a privacy management infrastructure and a set of business models for quantified self-applications.

She has recently completed work as Principal Investigator on the Leverhulme Trust funded project ‘Taking Liberties? New Uses of Consumer Data in the UK’, based at OUBS. Alongside co-investigators Elizabeth Daniel, Sally Dibb, Maureen Meadows and researchers Keith Spiller and Ana Canhoto (Oxford Brookes), the project investigated the impact of government surveillance regimes which collect consumer data from the private sector on those companies and their customer relationships. She was also co-investigator on a multi-million dollar project, again funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada entitled The Globalisation of Personal Data also based at Queens University.

She has published widely in scholarly journals and books with a number of international co-authors on the issue of surveillance in the workplace and in society. Her article, 'An Hotel Inspector Calls', co-authored with Maria Laura Di Domenico (Surrey) was recently chosen as one of the 8 exemplary articles on the topic of Expert Power and Control published by the journal 'Organization' in the last 20 years. She has recently published The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies with Kevin Haggerty and David Lyon, and The Political Economy of Surveillance with Laureen Snider. She is also co-editor (with Frank Webster) of The Intensification of Surveillance: Crime Terrorism and Warfare in the Information Age (Pluto Books). Next year will see the release of The Private Security State? Surveillance, Consumer Data and the War on Terror a co-authored research work based on the Leverhulme-funded Taking Liberties project, published by Copenhagen Business School Press.

Research interests

Kirstie’s research interests focus on surveillance in and around organizations, and surveillance in society at large. In particular she is interested in subjectivity and the experience of surveillance, employee surveillance, consumer surveillance and the blurring of public and private boundaries in government surveillance regimes. She has a theoretical interest in surveillance drawing on organization theory, the sociology of the body, science and technology studies and new media theory.

Impact and engagement

With a research interest in the public understanding of surveillance and privacy, Kirstie regularly appears in the national and international media on surveillance as well as at a variety of activist and think-tank style events.  She has recently written for Open Democracy, The Conversation and arranged an event on the Surveillance Society with My Life My Say, a charitable organization aiming to get young people involved in politics. She acts in an advisory capacity to the media, and has recently advised The Moral Maze, Broadcasting House (both BBC Radio 4) and The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ feature among others. She has also been invited to appear on ‘Thinking Allowed’ (BBC Radio 4). Kirstie was PI of ‘Your Life Your Data’, an online privacy awareness game aimed at 18 – 25 year olds, for the ESRC Festival of Social Science in 2012. Kirstie’s team produced an online version of a privacy card trading game for use in Facebook and Open Learn. 741 people played the game in a week. Analysis of information collected during the gameplay indicated that the game had caused players to reconsider their opinion on privacy and personal data. In 2010 she was academic consultant to the BAFTA and EMMY award winning BBC2/Open University production ‘Virtual Revolution?’  In May 2006 Kirstie acted as academic consultant to and appeared in the OUBS-BBC partnered production of The Money Programme, entitled 'The Real Big Brother: Surveillance in Business'.

External collaborations

Kirstie co-founded and co-edits the online journal Surveillance and Society and has established The Surveillance Studies Network with her editorial colleagues from the journal. Surveillance Studies Network is a charitable company and acts as a resource base and contact point for all scholars interested in surveillance-related issues. In 2006 Surveillance Studies Network consulted to the UK Information Commissioner and produced ‘A Report on the Surveillance Society’. It received wide media coverage following its launch and prompted enquiries by the House of Commons Home Affairs select committee and the House of Lords Constitutional committee into the Surveillance Society.  A further consultancy to the Information Commissioner resulted in ‘An update to “A Report on the Surveillance Society”’ in 2010. As part of her FP7 projects Kirstie intellectually directs and co-ordinates the activities of researchers across 14 (IRISS) and 9 (SurPRISE) European countries. The results of this research will feed directly in to European security and privacy policies.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences