Professor Steve Woolgar is Chair of Marketing and Head of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. His areas of expertise within the field of STS include governance and accountability relations, mundane objects and ordinary technologies, provocation and intervention, visualisation and evidence, social theory and the use of neuroscience in business and management.
Woolgar’s considerable contributions to the field of STS are characterized by a stubborn refusal to offer stable interpretations and accept existing preconceptions and assumptions. ‘What I love about this field is that it is never at rest with itself and has profound implications on ideas throughout social sciences and humanities’, he says.
Woolgar’s current work focuses on the areas of mundane governance, neuromarketing and web-based rating and ranking schemes.
His research on mundane governance looks at the ways in which very ordinary objects and technologies are involved in controlling and regulating our lives. Woolgar’s neuromarketing work examines this new development in marketing from an ethnographic perspective to determine how neuromarketing is being used and whether and how it will be accepted and institutionalised by the industry. This is also part of a larger study examining the effects of the neurosciences on social sciences and humanities throughout Europe. Woolgar and his research team are also exploring web-based rating and ranking schemes to understand the impact of these systems in a world where seemingly every aspect of life can be rated or evaluated.
Woolgar served as the Director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) ‘Virtual Society?’ programme for five years, overseeing more than twenty research projects throughout the UK that examined the wide range of social impacts of new electronic technologies. ‘Virtual Society?’ was a key part of a STS movement that showed the unintended effects of implementing new technology systems.
Woolgar has also served as a strategic advisor for numerous international organisations including Philips (Netherlands), Elsevier (Oxford) and the World Executive Institute (Beijing). Since 2006 he has advised World Brand Lab, a brand valuation consultancy. He has recently begun work with foundations in Russia to help develop new initiatives to stimulate science and technology innovations in the country.
As a member of the Council of the Consumers’ Association (Which?), Europe’s largest consumer rights organisation, Woolgar helps oversee the development and management of Which? product offerings, most recently the creation of Which? Mortgage Advisers.
He has served as an advisor to the Research Councils of Denmark, Netherlands and Norway and also as a member of the Minister’s Advisory Groups for the UK Department of Trade and Industry’s Consumer Affairs Directorate and the Cabinet Office’s E-commerce and Small Businesses Group.
Woolgar and his colleagues organise an annual Oxford STS conference at Saïd Business School each summer that explores cutting edge issues in the field. Recent conference topics include ‘A turn to ontology in STS?’, ‘Does STS mean business?’ and ‘From scale to scalography’. ‘Does STS mean business’ examines the nature and consequences of the appropriation of STS within new contexts, for example when STS comes into contact with Organization and Management Studies and moves into business schools and business and management environments. The conference proceedings served as the foundation for a series of academic journal publications.
Before joining Saïd Business School in 2000, Woolgar was Professor of Sociology at Brunel University and the Director of the University’s Centre for Research into Innovation, Culture and Technology (CRICT). Woolgar is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Fulbright Senior Scholar award. He was awarded the JD Bernal Prize for Research Distinction in 2008, and was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in 2010. He earned a BA (First Class Honours), MA and PhD from Cambridge University.
Areas of expertise include:
- Governance and accountability relations
- Mundane objects and ordinary technologies
- Provocation and intervention
- Visualisation and evidence
- Social theory
- The use of neuroscience in business and management