The Synchronized Society: Time and Control From Broadcasting to the Internet

Book by Randall Patnode: “…traces the history of the synchronous broadcast experience of the twentieth century and the transition to the asynchronous media that dominate today. Broadcasting grew out of the latent desire by nineteenth-century industrialists, political thinkers, and social reformers to tame an unruly society by controlling how people used their time. The idea manifested itself in the form of the broadcast schedule, a managed flow of information and entertainment that required audiences to be in a particular place – usually the home – at a particular time and helped to create “water cooler” moments, as audiences reflected on their shared media texts. Audiences began disconnecting from the broadcast schedule at the end of the twentieth century, but promoters of social media and television services still kept audiences under control, replacing the schedule with surveillance of media use. Author Randall Patnode offers compelling new insights into the intermingled roles of broadcasting and industrial/post-industrial work and how Americans spend their time…(More)”.

Building Trust in AI: A Landscape Analysis of Government AI Programs

Paper by Susan Ariel Aaronson: “As countries around the world expand their use of artificial intelligence (AI), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed the most comprehensive website on AI policy, the OECD.AI Policy Observatory. Although the website covers public policies on AI, the author of this paper found that many governments failed to evaluate or report on their AI initiatives. This lack of reporting is a missed opportunity for policy makers to learn from their programs (the author found that less than one percent of the programs listed on the OECD.AI website had been evaluated). In addition, the author found discrepancies between what governments said they were doing on the OECD.AI website and what they reported on their own websites. In some cases, there was no evidence of government actions; in other cases, links to government sites did not work. Evaluations of AI policies are important because they help governments demonstrate how they are building trust in both AI and AI governance and that policy makers are accountable to their fellow citizens…(More)”.

To harness telecom data for good, there are six challenges to overcome

Blog by Anat Lewin and Sveta Milusheva: “The global use of mobile phones generates a vast amount of data. What good can be done with these data? During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that aggregated data from mobile phones can tell us where groups of humans are going, how many of them are there, and how they are behaving as a cluster. When used effectively and responsibly, mobile phone data can be immensely helpful for development work and emergency response — particularly in resource-constrained countries.  For example, an African country that had, in recent years, experienced a cholera outbreak was ahead of the game. Since the legal and practical agreements were already in place to safely share aggregated mobile data, accessing newer information to support epidemiological modeling for COVID-19 was a straightforward exercise. The resulting datasets were used to produce insightful analyses that could better inform health, lockdown, and preventive policy measures in the country.

To better understand such challenges and opportunities, we led an effort to access and use anonymized, aggregated mobile phone data across 41 countries. During this process, we identified several recurring roadblocks and replicable successes, which we summarized in a paper along with our lessons learned. …(More)”.

The Government of Chance: Sortition and Democracy from Athens to the Present

Book by Yves Sintomer: “Electoral democracies are struggling. Sintomer, in this instructive book, argues for democratic innovations. One such innovation is using random selection to create citizen bodies with advisory or decisional political power. ‘Sortition’ has a long political history. Coupled with elections, it has represented an important yet often neglected dimension of Republican and democratic government, and has been reintroduced in the Global North, China and Mexico. The Government of Chance explores why sortation is returning, how it is coupled with deliberation, and why randomly selected ‘minipublics’ and citizens’ assemblies are flourishing. Relying on a growing international and interdisciplinary literature, Sintomer provides the first systematic and theoretical reconstruction of the government of chance from Athens to the present. At what conditions can it be rational? What lessons can be drawn from history? The Government of Chance therefore clarifies the democratic imaginaries at stake: deliberative, antipolitical, and radical, making a plaidoyer for the latter….(More)”.

Your Data Is Diminishing Your Freedom

Interview by David Marchese: “It’s no secret — even if it hasn’t yet been clearly or widely articulated — that our lives and our data are increasingly intertwined, almost indistinguishable. To be able to function in modern society is to submit to demands for ID numbers, for financial information, for filling out digital fields and drop-down boxes with our demographic details. Such submission, in all senses of the word, can push our lives in very particular and often troubling directions. It’s only recently, though, that I’ve seen someone try to work through the deeper implications of what happens when our data — and the formats it’s required to fit — become an inextricable part of our existence, like a new limb or organ to which we must adapt. ‘‘I don’t want to claim we are only data and nothing but data,’’ says Colin Koopman, chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Oregon and the author of ‘‘How We Became Our Data.’’ ‘‘My claim is you are your data, too.’’ Which at the very least means we should be thinking about this transformation beyond the most obvious data-security concerns. ‘‘We’re strikingly lackadaisical,’’ says Koopman, who is working on a follow-up book, tentatively titled ‘‘Data Equals,’’ ‘‘about how much attention we give to: What are these data showing? What assumptions are built into configuring data in a given way? What inequalities are baked into these data systems? We need to be doing more work on this.’’

Can you explain more what it means to say that we have become our data? Because a natural reaction to that might be, well, no, I’m my mind, I’m my body, I’m not numbers in a database — even if I understand that those numbers in that database have real bearing on my life. The claim that we are data can also be taken as a claim that we live our lives through our data in addition to living our lives through our bodies, through our minds, through whatever else. I like to take a historical perspective on this. If you wind the clock back a couple hundred years or go to certain communities, the pushback wouldn’t be, ‘‘I’m my body,’’ the pushback would be, ‘‘I’m my soul.’’ We have these evolving perceptions of our self. I don’t want to deny anybody that, yeah, you are your soul. My claim is that your data has become something that is increasingly inescapable and certainly inescapable in the sense of being obligatory for your average person living out their life. There’s so much of our lives that are woven through or made possible by various data points that we accumulate around ourselves — and that’s interesting and concerning. It now becomes possible to say: ‘‘These data points are essential to who I am. I need to tend to them, and I feel overwhelmed by them. I feel like it’s being manipulated beyond my control.’’ A lot of people have that relationship to their credit score, for example. It’s both very important to them and very mysterious…(More)”.

Exploring data journalism practices in Africa: data politics, media ecosystems and newsroom infrastructures

Paper by Sarah Chiumbu and Allen Munoriyarwa: “Extant research on data journalism in Africa has focused on newsroom factors and the predilections of individual journalists as determinants of the uptake of data journalism on the continent. This article diverts from this literature by examining the slow uptake of data journalism in sub- Saharan Africa through the prisms of non-newsroom factors. Drawing on in-depth interviews with prominent investigative journalists sampled from several African countries, we argue that to understand the slow uptake of data journalism on the continent; there is a need to critique the role of data politics, which encompasses state, market and existing media ecosystems across the continent. Therefore, it is necessary to move beyond newsroom-centric factors that have dominated the contemporary understanding of data journalism practices. A broader, non-newsroom conceptualisation beyond individual journalistic predilections and newsroom resources provides productive clarity on data journalism’s slow uptake on the continent. These arguments are made through the conceptual prisms of materiality, performativity and reflexivity…(More)”.

Mapping Diversity

About: “Mapping Diversity is a platform for discovering key facts about diversity and representation in street names across Europe, and to spark a debate about who is missing from our urban spaces.

We looked at the names of 145,933 streets across 30 major European cities, located in 17 different countries. More than 90% of the streets named after individuals are dedicated to white men. Where did all the other inhabitants of Europe end up? The lack of diversity in toponymy speaks volumes about our past and contributes to shaping Europe’s present and future…(More)”.

Ten (not so) simple rules for clinical trial data-sharing

Paper by Claude Pellen et al: “Clinical trial data-sharing is seen as an imperative for research integrity and is becoming increasingly encouraged or even required by funders, journals, and other stakeholders. However, early experiences with data-sharing have been disappointing because they are not always conducted properly. Health data is indeed sensitive and not always easy to share in a responsible way. We propose 10 rules for researchers wishing to share their data. These rules cover the majority of elements to be considered in order to start the commendable process of clinical trial data-sharing:

  • Rule 1: Abide by local legal and regulatory data protection requirements
  • Rule 2: Anticipate the possibility of clinical trial data-sharing before obtaining funding
  • Rule 3: Declare your intent to share data in the registration step
  • Rule 4: Involve research participants
  • Rule 5: Determine the method of data access
  • Rule 6: Remember there are several other elements to share
  • Rule 7: Do not proceed alone
  • Rule 8: Deploy optimal data management to ensure that the data shared is useful
  • Rule 9: Minimize risks
  • Rule 10: Strive for excellence…(More)”

Decidim: why digital tools for democracy need to be developed democratically

Blog by Adrian Smith and Pedro Prieto Martín: “On Wednesday 18 January 2023, a pan-European citizen jury voted Barcelona the first European Capital of Democracy. Barcelona has a rich history of official and citizen initiatives in political and economic democracy. One received a special mention from the jurors. That initiative is Decidim.

Decidim is a digital platform for citizen participation. Through it, citizens can propose, comment, debate, and vote on urban developments, decide how to spend city budgets, and design and contribute to local strategies and plans.

Launched in 2016, more than 400 organisations around the world have since used the platform. What makes Decidim stand out, according to our research, is developer commitment to democratising technology development itself and embedding it within struggles for democracy offline and online. Decidim holds important lessons at a time when the monopolisation of social media by corporate power presents democrats with so many challenges…(More)”.

The Sensitive Politics Of Information For Digital States

Essay by Federica Carugati, Cyanne E. Loyle and Jessica Steinberg: “In 2020, Vice revealed that the U.S. military had signed a contract with Babel Street, a Virginia-based company that created a product called Locate X, which collects location data from users across a variety of digital applications. Some of these apps are seemingly innocuous: one for following storms, a Muslim dating app and a level for DIY home repair. Less innocuously, these reports indicate that the U.S. government is outsourcing some of its counterterrorism and counterinsurgency information-gathering activities to a private company.

While states have always collected information about citizens and their activities, advances in digital technologies — including new kinds of data and infrastructure — have fundamentally altered their ability to access, gather and analyze information. Bargaining with and relying on non-state actors like private companies creates tradeoffs between a state’s effectiveness and legitimacy. Those tradeoffs might be unacceptable to citizens, undermining our very understanding of what states do and how we should interact with them …(More)”