Americans’ views about privacy, surveillance and data-sharing


Pew Research Center: “In key ways, today’s digitally networked society runs on quid pro quos: People exchange details about themselves and their activities for services and products on the web or apps. Many are willing to accept the deals they are offered in return for sharing insight about their purchases, behaviors and social lives. At times, their personal information is collected by government on the grounds that there are benefits to public safety and security.

A majority of Americans are concerned about this collection and use of their data, according to a new report from Pew Research Center….

Americans vary in their attitudes toward data-sharing in the pursuit of public good. Though many Americans don’t think they benefit much from the collection of their data, and they find that the potential risks of this practice outweigh the benefits, there are some scenarios in which the public is more likely to accept the idea of data-sharing. In line with findings in a 2015 Center survey showing that some Americans are comfortable with trade-offs in sharing data, about half of U.S. adults (49%) say it is acceptable for the government to collect data about all Americans in order to assess potential terrorist threats. That compares with 31% who feel it is unacceptable to collect data about all Americans for that purpose. By contrast, just one-quarter say it is acceptable for smart speaker makers to share users’ audio recordings with law enforcement to help with criminal investigations, versus 49% who find that unacceptable….(More)”.

Decision-making in the Age of the Algorithm


Paper by Thea Snow: “Frontline practitioners in the public sector – from social workers to police to custody officers – make important decisions every day about people’s lives. Operating in the context of a sector grappling with how to manage rising demand, coupled with diminishing resources, frontline practitioners are being asked to make very important decisions quickly and with limited information. To do this, public sector organisations are turning to new technologies to support decision-making, in particular, predictive analytics tools, which use machine learning algorithms to discover patterns in data and make predictions.

While many guides exist around ethical AI design, there is little guidance on how to support a productive human-machine interaction in relation to AI. This report aims to fill this gap by focusing on the issue of human-machine interaction. How people are working with tools is significant because, simply put, for predictive analytics tools to be effective, frontline practitioners need to use them well. It encourages public sector organisations to think about how people feel about predictive analytics tools – what they’re fearful of, what they’re excited about, what they don’t understand.

Based on insights drawn from an extensive literature review, interviews with frontline practitioners, and discussions with experts across a range of fields, the guide also identifies three key principles that play a significant role in supporting a constructive human-machine relationship: context, understanding, and agency….(More)”.

Seeing Transparency More Clearly


Paper by David Pozen: “In recent years, transparency has been proposed as the solution to, and the cause of, a remarkable range of public problems. The proliferation of seemingly contradictory claims about transparency becomes less puzzling, this essay argues, when one appreciates that transparency is not, in itself, a coherent normative ideal. Nor does it have a straightforward instrumental relationship to any primary goals of governance. To gain greater purchase on how transparency policies operate, scholars must therefore move beyond abstract assumptions and drill down into the specific legal, institutional, historical, political, and cultural contexts in which these policies are crafted and implemented. The field of transparency studies, in other words, is due for a “sociological turn.”…(More)”.

Policy Entrepreneurs and Dynamic Change


Paper by Michael Mintrom: “Policy entrepreneurs are energetic actors who engage in collaborative efforts in and around government to promote policy innovations. Interest in policy entrepreneurs has grown over recent years. Increasingly, they are recognized as a unique class of political actors, who display common attributes, deploy common strategies, and can propel dynamic shifts in societal practices.

This Element assesses the current state of knowledge on policy entrepreneurs, their actions, and their impacts. It explains how various global forces are creating new demand for policy entrepreneurship, and suggests directions for future research on policy entrepreneurs and their efforts to drive dynamic change….(More)”.

A Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society


Book by Jonathan Rothwell: “Political equality is the most basic tenet of democracy. Yet in America and other democratic nations, those with political power have special access to markets and public services. A Republic of Equals traces the massive income inequality observed in the United States and other rich democracies to politicized markets and avoidable gaps in opportunity—and explains why they are the root cause of what ails democracy today.

In this provocative book, economist Jonathan Rothwell draws on the latest empirical evidence from across the social sciences to demonstrate how rich democracies have allowed racial politics and the interests of those at the top to subordinate justice. He looks at the rise of nationalism in Europe and the United States, revealing how this trend overlaps with racial prejudice and is related to mounting frustration with a political status quo that thrives on income inequality and inefficient markets. But economic differences are by no means inevitable. Differences in group status by race and ethnicity are dynamic and have reversed themselves across continents and within countries. Inequalities persist between races in the United States because Black Americans are denied equal access to markets and public services. Meanwhile, elite professional associations carve out privileged market status for their members, leading to compensation in excess of their skills.

A Republic of Equals provides a bold new perspective on how to foster greater political and social equality, while moving societies closer to what a true republic should be….(More)”.

The fuzzy concept of collaborative governance: A systematic review of the state of the art


Paper by Agnes Batory and Sara Svensson: “Collaborative approaches to policy-making are high on the agenda for most European governments and are key to European Commission activities with respect to the transformation of public administration in the European Union (EU) (Hammerschmid et al., 2016European Commission, 2016). A long line of politicians has stated the need for government units to overcome organizational cleavages and reach out to citizens and stakeholders in order to address difficult policy problems and deliver public services more efficiently. Collaborative approaches to policy-making have also been advocated as a way to close the seemingly growing gap between government and citizens and thus to alleviate normative problems commonly besetting Western democracies in the last decades. Collaborative governance has received considerable attention from public administration scholars and is the subject of a burgeoning body of academic literature in policy studies, public management and democratic theory. However, the rapid uptake of collaborative governance and related concepts, such as coordination, cooperation, joined-up governance, network governance (e.g., Robinson 2006) and interactive governance (Michels, 2011), led to a rather amorphous, diffused discussion, rather than a coherent narrative. Attempts to structure the debate have so far exclusively focused on the academic literature in English. This article aims to facilitate the synthesis and consolidation of work undertaken so far in a way that is more culturally sensitive and more open to developments taking place in the world of practice.

More specifically, this article first seeks to map the current state of the art. It pinpoints key dimensions of variation in how collaborative governance is defined in the academic literature through a qualitative analysis of influential scholarly work and provides a systematic literature review of a corpus of over 700 article abstracts. The analysis shows that scholarly articles differ in their conceptualisation of collaborative governance along at least five dimensions, which concern the public-private (governmental-non-governmental) divide; agency; organisational aspects; scope and locus within the policy process; and normative assumptions. Second, the paper extends this analysis to incorporate some preliminary findings on relevant ‘grey’ literature on collaborative governance in Europe – which seems to be in closer touch with developments of high relevance for practice – in order to indicate whether and to what extent the scholarly and the practitioner-oriented literature overlap or differ in orientation and subjects covered. Finally, the paper takes stock of the national connotations of the term in different European languages, which aims to mitigate the Anglo-Saxon bias in the literature. For the second and third objectives, the paper relies on responses from teams of academic public administration experts in ten EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. The methodological approach for each of these steps is described in the respective sections of the paper. The penultimate section provides a synthesis of the results, including recommendations for reconceptualization and future research….(More)”.

Ten ways to optimise evidence-based policy


Paper by Peter Bragge: “Applying knowledge to problems has occupied the minds of great philosophers, scientists and other thinkers for centuries. In more modern times, the challenge of connecting knowledge to practice has been addressed through fields such as evidence-based medicine which have conceptualised optimal healthcare as integration of best available research evidence, clinical experience and patients’ values. Similar principles apply to evidence-based public policy, and literature in this field has been growing since the turn of the century.

The exponential rise in knowledge availability has greatly enhanced the ‘supply’ side of the evidence-into-practice equation – however substantial gaps between evidence and practice remain. Policymakers are therefore increasingly looking to academia to optimise evidence-informed policy. This article presents ten considerations for optimising evidence-based policy, drawn from experience in delivering applied behaviour change research to government….(More)”.

Experts and the Will of the People


Book by Harry Collins, Robert  Evans, Darrin Durant and Martin Weinel: “The rise of populism in the West has led to attacks on the legitimacy of scientific expertise in political decision making. This book explores the differences between populism and pluralist democracy and their relationship with science. Pluralist democracy is characterised by respect for minority choices and a system of checks and balances that prevents power being concentrated in one group, while populism treats minorities as traitorous so as to concentrate power in the government. The book argues that scientific expertise – and science more generally — should be understood as one of the checks and balances in pluralist democracies. It defends science as ‘craftwork with integrity’ and shows how its crucial role in democratic societies can be rethought and that it must be publicly explained. This book will be of value to scholars and practitioners working across STS as well as to anyone interested in decoding the populist agenda against science….(More)”.

Politics is for Power, Not Consumption


Eitan Hersh at the Boston Review: “…What I’m doing I call political hobbyism, a catchall phrase for consuming and participating in politics by obsessive news-following and online “slacktivism,” by feeling the need to offer a hot take for each daily political flare-up, by emoting and arguing and debating, almost all of this from behind screens or with earphones on. I am in good company: these behaviors represent how most “politically engaged” Americans spend their time on politics.

In 2018, I asked a representative sample of Americans to estimate about how much time they spend on any kind of political-related activity in a typical day. A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics. Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It is all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.

Political hobbyists tend to be older than the general public, though they are found in all age groups. They are disproportionately college educated, male, and white. In the current climate, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans or independents. Not only are they different from the general public, they also have a different profile from people who engage actively in political organizations. For example, of the people who spend two hours a day on politics but no time on volunteering, 56 percent are men. But of those who spend that much time on politics, with at least some of it spent volunteering, 66 percent are women.

Those who volunteer, such as the group in Westmoreland County that is out convincing neighbors to vote and to advocate, have something to show for their commitment to their political values. As for the rest of us, all we have is a sinking feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming challenge.

As a political scientist, I study the ways that ordinary people participate in politics. The political behavior of ordinary people is hard to understand. We don’t often reflect deeply on why we engage in politics. However, when we step back and investigate our political lives, we can paint a general picture of what motivates us. Summing up the time we spend on politics, it would be hard to describe our behavior as seeking to influence our communities or country. Most of us are engaging to satisfy our own emotional needs and intellectual curiosities. That’s political hobbyism….(More)”.

Data as oil, infrastructure or asset? Three metaphors of data as economic value


Jan Michael Nolin at the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society: “Principled discussions on the economic value of data are frequently pursued through metaphors. This study aims to explore three influential metaphors for talking about the economic value of data: data are the new oil, data as infrastructure and data as an asset.

With the help of conceptual metaphor theory, various meanings surrounding the three metaphors are explored. Meanings clarified or hidden through various metaphors are identified. Specific emphasis is placed on the economic value of ownership of data.

In discussions on data as economic resource, the three different metaphors are used for separate purposes. The most used metaphor, data are the new oil, communicates that ownership of data could lead to great wealth. However, with data as infrastructure data have no intrinsic value. Therefore, profits generated from data resources belong to those processing the data, not those owning it. The data as an asset metaphor can be used to convince organizational leadership that they own data of great value….(More)”.