A tale of two labs: Rethinking urban living labs for advancing citizen engagement in food system transformations


Paper by Anke Brons et al: “Citizen engagement is heralded as essential for food democracy and equality, yet the implementation of inclusive citizen engagement mechanisms in urban food systems governance has lagged behind. This paper aims to further the agenda of citizen engagement in the transformation towards healthy and sustainable urban food systems by offering a conceptual reflection on urban living labs (ULLs) as a methodological platform. Over the past decades, ULLs have become increasingly popular to actively engage citizens in methodological testbeds for innovations within real-world settings. The paper proposes that ULLs as a tool for inclusive citizen engagement can be utilized in two ways: (i) the ULL as the daily life of which citizens are the experts, aimed at uncovering the unreflexive agency of a highly diverse population in co-shaping the food system and (ii) the ULL as a break with daily life aimed at facilitating reflexive agency in (re)shaping food futures. We argue that both ULL approaches have the potential to facilitate inclusive citizen engagement in different ways by strengthening the breadth and the depth of citizen engagement respectively. The paper concludes by proposing a sequential implementation of the two types of ULL, paying attention to spatial configurations and the short-termed nature of ULLs….(More)”.

How digital transformation is driving economic change


Blog (and book) by Zia Qureshi: “We are living in a time of exciting technological innovations. Digital technologies are driving transformative change. Economic paradigms are shifting. The new technologies are reshaping product and factor markets and profoundly altering business and work. The latest advances in artificial intelligence and related innovations are expanding the frontiers of the digital revolution. Digital transformation is accelerating in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The future is arriving faster than expected.

A recently published book, “Shifting Paradigms: Growth, Finance, Jobs, and Inequality in the Digital Economy,” examines the implications of the unfolding digital metamorphosis for economies and public policy agendas….

Firms at the technological frontier have broken away from the rest, acquiring dominance in increasingly concentrated markets and capturing the lion’s share of the returns from the new technologies. While productivity growth in these firms has been strong, it has stagnated or slowed in other firms, depressing aggregate productivity growth. Increasing automation of low- to middle-skill tasks has shifted labor demand toward higher-level skills, hurting wages and jobs at the lower end of the skill spectrum. With the new technologies favoring capital, winner-take-all business outcomes, and higher-level skills, the distribution of both capital and labor income has tended to become more unequal, and income has been shifting from labor to capital.

One important reason for these outcomes is that policies and institutions have been slow to adjust to the unfolding transformations. To realize the promise of today’s smart machines, policies need to be smarter too. They must be more responsive to change to fully capture potential gains in productivity and economic growth and address rising inequality as technological disruptions create winners and losers.

As technology reshapes markets and alters growth and distributional dynamics, policies must ensure that markets remain inclusive and support wide access to the new opportunities for firms and workers. The digital economy must be broadened to disseminate new technologies and opportunities to smaller firms and wider segments of the labor force…(More)”.

Tech is finally killing long lines


Erica Pandey at Axios: “Startups and big corporations alike are releasing technology to put long lines online.

Why it matters: Standing in lines has always been a hassle, but the pandemic has made lines longer, slower and even dangerous. Now many of those lines are going virtual.

What’s happening: Physical lines are disappearing at theme parks, doctor’s offices, clothing stores and elsewhere, replaced by systems that let you book a slot online and then wait to be notified that it’s your turn.

Whyline, an Argentinian company that was just acquired by the biometric ID company CLEAR, is an app that lets users do just that — it will keep you up to date on your wait time and let you know when you need to show up.

  • Whyline’s list of clients — mostly in Latin America — includes banks, retail stores, the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Los Angeles International Airport.
  • “The same way you make a reservation at a restaurant, Whyline software does the waiting for you in banks, in DMVs, in airports,” CLEAR CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker said on CNBC.

Another app called Safe Queue was born from the pandemic and aims to make in-store shopping safer for customers and workers by spacing out shoppers’ visits.

  • The app uses GPS technology to detect when you’re within 1,000 feet of a participating store and automatically puts you in a virtual line. Then you can wait in your car or somewhere nearby until it’s your turn to shop.

Many health clinics around the country are also putting their COVID test lines online..

The rub: While virtual queuing tech may be gaining ground, lines are still more common than not. And in the age of social distancing, expect wait times to remain high and lines to remain long…(More)”.

Why people believe misinformation and resist correction


TechPolicyPress: “…In Nature, a team of nine researchers from the fields of psychology, mass media & communication have published a review of available research on the factors that lead people to “form or endorse misinformed views, and the psychological barriers” to changing their minds….

The authors summarize what is known about a variety of drivers of false beliefs, noting that they “generally arise through the same mechanisms that establish accurate beliefs” and the human weakness for trusting the “gut”. For a variety of reasons, people develop shortcuts when processing information, often defaulting to conclusions rather than evaluating new information critically. A complex set of variables related to information sources, emotional factors and a variety of other cues can lead to the formation of false beliefs. And, people often share information with little focus on its veracity, but rather to accomplish other goals- from self-promotion to signaling group membership to simply sating a desire to ‘watch the world burn’.

Source: Nature Reviews: Psychology, Volume 1, January 022

Barriers to belief revision are also complex, since “the original information is not simply erased or replaced” once corrective information is introduced. There is evidence that misinformation can be “reactivated and retrieved” even after an individual receives accurate information that contradicts it. A variety of factors affect whether correct information can win out. One theory looks at how information is integrated in a person’s “memory network”. Another complementary theory looks at “selective retrieval” and is backed up by neuro-imaging evidence…(More)”.

The Attack of Zombie Science


Article by Natalia Pasternak, Carlos Orsi, Aaron F. Mertz, & Stuart Firestein: “When we think about how science is distorted, we usually think about concepts that have ample currency in public discourse, such as pseudoscience and junk science. Practices like astrology and homeopathy come wrapped in scientific concepts and jargon that can’t meet the methodological requirements of actual sciences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, pseudoscience has had a field day. Bleach, anyone? Bear bile? Yet the pandemic has brought a newer, more subtle form of distortion to light. To the philosophy of science, we humbly submit a new concept: “zombie science.”

We think of zombie science as mindless science. It goes through the motions of scientific research without a real research question to answer, it follows all the correct methodology, but it doesn’t aspire to contribute to advance knowledge in the field. Practically all the information about hydroxychloroquine during the pandemic falls into that category, including not just the living dead found in preprint repositories, but also papers published in journals that ought to have been caught by a more discerning eye. Journals, after all, invest their reputation in every piece they choose to publish. And every investment in useless science is a net loss.

From a social and historical stance, it seems almost inevitable that the penchant for productivism in the academic and scientific world would end up encouraging zombie science. If those who do not publish perish, then publishing—even nonsense or irrelevancies—is a matter of life or death. The peer-review process and the criteria for editorial importance are filters, for sure, but they are limited. Not only do they get clogged and overwhelmed due to excess submissions, they have to deal with the weaknesses of the human condition, including feelings of personal loyalty, prejudice, and vanity. Additionally, these filters fail, as the proliferation of predatory journals shows us all too well…(More)”.

The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work


Open Access Book by Mohammad Amir Anwar and Mark Graham: “As recently as the early 2010s, there were more internet users in countries like France or Germany than in all of Africa put together. But much changed in that decade, and 2018 marked the first year in human history in which a majority of the world’s population is now connected to the internet. This mass connectivity means that we have an internet that no longer connects only the world’s wealthy. Workers from Lagos to Johannesburg to Nairobi, and everywhere in between, can now apply for and carry out jobs coming from clients who themselves can be located anywhere in the world. Digital outsourcing firms can now also set up operations in the most unlikely of places in order to tap into hitherto disconnected labour forces. With CEOs in the Global North proclaiming that location is a concern of the past, and governments and civil society in Africa promising to create millions of jobs on the continent, The Digital Continent investigates what this new world of digital work means to the lives of African workers. Anwar and Graham draw on a five-year-long field study in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda, and over 200 interviews conducted with participants including gig workers, call and contact centre workers, small self-employed freelancers, business owners, government officials, labour union officials, and industry experts. Focusing on both platform-based remote work and call and contact centre work, the book examines the job quality implications of digital work for the lives and livelihoods of African workers…(More)”.

Making data for good better


Article by Caroline Buckee, Satchit Balsari, and Andrew Schroeder: “…Despite the long standing excitement about the potential for digital tools, Big Data and AI to transform our lives, these innovations–with some exceptions–have so far had little impact on the greatest public health emergency of our time.

Attempts to use digital data streams to rapidly produce public health insights that were not only relevant for local contexts in cities and countries around the world, but also available to decision makers who needed them, exposed enormous gaps across the translational pipeline. The insights from novel data streams which could help drive precise, impactful health programs, and bring effective aid to communities, found limited use among public health and emergency response systems. We share here our experience from the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network (CMDN), now Crisis Ready (crisisready.io), a global collaboration of researchers, mostly infectious disease epidemiologists and data scientists, who served as trusted intermediaries between technology companies willing to share vast amounts of digital data, and policy makers, struggling to incorporate insights from these novel data streams into their decision making. Through our experience with the Network, and using human mobility data as an illustrative example, we recognize three sets of barriers to the successful application of large digital datasets for public good.

First, in the absence of pre-established working relationships with technology companies and data brokers, the data remain primarily confined within private circuits of ownership and control. During the pandemic, data sharing agreements between large technology companies and researchers were hastily cobbled together, often without the right kind of domain expertise in the mix. Second, the lack of standardization, interoperability and information on the uncertainty and biases associated with these data, necessitated complex analytical processing by highly specialized domain experts. And finally, local public health departments, understandably unfamiliar with these novel data streams, had neither the bandwidth nor the expertise to sift noise from signal. Ultimately, most efforts did not yield consistently useful information for decision making, particularly in low resource settings, where capacity limitations in the public sector are most acute…(More)”.

‘Sharing Is Caring’: Creative Commons, Transformative Culture, and Moral Rights Protection


Paper by Alexandra Giannopoulou: “The practice of sharing works free from traditional legal reservations, aims to mark both ideological and systemic distance from the exclusive proprietary regime of copyright. The positive involvement of the public in creativity acts is a defining feature of transformative culture in the digital sphere, which encourages creative collaborations between several people, without any limitation in space or time. Moral rights regimes are antithetical to these practices. This chapter will explore the moral rights challenges emerging from transformative culture. We will take the example of Creative Commons licenses and their interaction with internationally recognized moral rights. We conclude that the chilling effects of this legal uncertainty linked to moral rights enforcement could hurt copyright as a whole, but that moral rights can still constitute a strong defence mechanism against modern risks related to digital transformative creativity…(More)”.

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer


Edelman: “The world is failing to meet the unprecedented challenges of our time because it is ensnared in a vicious cycle of distrust. Four interlocking forces drive this cycle, thwarting progress on climate change, global pandemic management, racism and mounting tensions between China and the U.S. Left unchecked, the following four forces, evident in the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, will undermine institutions and further destabilize society:  

  • Government-media distrust spiral. Two institutions people rely on for truth are doing a dangerous tango of short-term mutual advantage, with exaggeration and division to gain clicks and votes.
  • Excessive reliance on business. Government failure has created an over-reliance on business to fill the void, a job that private enterprise was not designed to deliver.
  • Mass-class divide. The global pandemic has widened the fissure that surfaced in the wake of the Great Recession. High-income earners have become more trusting of institutions, while lower-income earners remain wary.
  • Failure of leadership. Classic societal leaders in government, the media and business have been discredited. Trust, once hierarchical, has become local and dispersed as people rely on my employer, my colleagues, my family. Coinciding with this upheaval is a collapse of trust within democracies and a trust surge within autocracies.

The media business model has become dependent on generating partisan outrage, while the political model has become dependent on exploiting it. Whatever short-term benefits either institution derives, it is a long-term catastrophe for society. Distrust is now society’s default emotion, with nearly 60 percent inclined to distrust…(More)”.

From Poisons to Antidotes: Algorithms as Democracy Boosters


Paper by Paolo Cavaliere and Graziella Romeo: “Under what conditions can artificial intelligence contribute to political processes without undermining their legitimacy? Thanks to the ever-growing availability of data and the increasing power of decision-making algorithms, the future of political institutions is unlikely to be anything similar to what we have known throughout the last century, possibly with Parliaments deprived of their traditional authority and public decision-making processes largely unaccountable. This paper discusses and challenges these concerns by suggesting a theoretical framework under which algorithmic decision-making is compatible with democracy and, most relevantly, can offer a viable solution to counter the rise of populist rhetoric in the governance arena. Such a framework is based on three pillars: a. understanding the civic issues that are subjected to automated decision-making; b. controlling the issues that are assigned to AI; and c. evaluating and challenging the outputs of algorithmic decision-making….(More)”.