The Misinformation Edition


On-Line Exhibition by the Glass Room: “…In this exhibition – aimed at young people as well as adults – we explore how social media and the web have changed the way we read information and react to it. Learn why finding “fake news” is not as easy as it sounds, and how the term “fake news” is as much a problem as the news it describes. Dive into the world of deep fakes, which are now so realistic that they are virtually impossible to detect. And find out why social media platforms are designed to keep us hooked, and how they can be used to change our minds. You can also read our free Data Detox Kit, which reveals how to tell facts from fiction and why it benefits everyone around us when we take a little more care about what we share…(More)”.

EXPLORE OUR ONLINE EXHIBITION

Rethinking Readiness: A Brief Guide to Twenty-First-Century Megadisasters


Book by Jeff Schlegelmilch: “As human society continues to develop, we have increased the risk of large-scale disasters. From health care to infrastructure to national security, systems designed to keep us safe have also heightened the potential for catastrophe. The constant pressure of climate change, geopolitical conflict, and our tendency to ignore what is hard to grasp exacerbates potential dangers. How can we prepare for and prevent the twenty-first-century disasters on the horizon?

Rethinking Readiness offers an expert introduction to human-made threats and vulnerabilities, with a focus on opportunities to reimagine how we approach disaster preparedness. Jeff Schlegelmilch identifies and explores the most critical threats facing the world today, detailing the dangers of pandemics, climate change, infrastructure collapse, cyberattacks, and nuclear conflict. Drawing on the latest research from leading experts, he provides an accessible overview of the causes and potential effects of these looming megadisasters. The book highlights the potential for building resilient, adaptable, and sustainable systems so that we can be better prepared to respond to and recover from future crises. Thoroughly grounded in scientific and policy expertise, Rethinking Readiness is an essential guide to this century’s biggest challenges in disaster management…(More)”.

Tackling the misinformation epidemic with “In Event of Moon Disaster”


MIT Open Learning: “Can you recognize a digitally manipulated video when you see one? It’s harder than most people realize. As the technology to produce realistic “deepfakes” becomes more easily available, distinguishing fact from fiction will only get more challenging. A new digital storytelling project from MIT’s Center for Advanced Virtuality aims to educate the public about the world of deepfakes with “In Event of Moon Disaster.”

This provocative website showcases a “complete” deepfake (manipulated audio and video) of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon delivering the real contingency speech written in 1969 for a scenario in which the Apollo 11 crew were unable to return from the moon. The team worked with a voice actor and a company called Respeecher to produce the synthetic speech using deep learning techniques. They also worked with the company Canny AI to use video dialogue replacement techniques to study and replicate the movement of Nixon’s mouth and lips. Through these sophisticated AI and machine learning technologies, the seven-minute film shows how thoroughly convincing deepfakes can be….

Alongside the film, moondisaster.org features an array of interactive and educational resources on deepfakes. Led by Panetta and Halsey Burgund, a fellow at MIT Open Documentary Lab, an interdisciplinary team of artists, journalists, filmmakers, designers, and computer scientists has created a robust, interactive resource site where educators and media consumers can deepen their understanding of deepfakes: how they are made and how they work; their potential use and misuse; what is being done to combat deepfakes; and teaching and learning resources….(More)”.

The Coronavirus and Innovation


Essay by Scott E. Page: “The total impact of the coronavirus pandemic—the loss of life and the economic, social, and psychological costs arising from both the pandemic itself and the policies implemented to prevent its spread—defy any characterization. Though the pandemic continues to unsettle, disrupt, and challenge communities, we might take a moment to appreciate and applaud the diversity, breadth, and scope of our responses—from individual actions to national policies—and even more important, to reflect on how they will produce a post–Covid-19 world far better than the world that preceded it.

In this brief essay, I describe how our adaptive responses to the coronavirus will lead to beneficial policy innovations. I do so from the perspective of a many-model thinker. By that I mean that I will use several formal models to theoretically elucidate the potential pathways to creating a better world. I offer this with the intent that it instills optimism that our current efforts to confront this tragic and difficult challenge will do more than combat the virus now and teach us how to combat future viruses. They will, in the long run, result in an enormous number of innovations in policy, business practices, and our daily lives….(More)”.

Trade-offs and considerations for the future: Innovation and the COVID-19 response


Essay by Benjamin Kumpf: “…Here are some of the relevant trade-offs I identified. 

Rigour vs. Speed

How to best balance high-quality rigorous research and the need to gain actionable insights rapidly?  

Responding to a pandemic requires working at pace, while investing in ongoing research and the cross-fertilization of disciplines. In our response, we witness the importance of strong networks with academia and DFID’s focus on high-quality research. In parallel, we invest in supporting partners with rapid data collection through methods such as phone surveys, field visits, onsite interviews where possible as well as big data analysis and more. For example, through the International Growth Centre, DFID has supported a Sierra Leone COVID-19 dashboard, providing real time data on current economic conditions and trends from phone–based surveys from 195 towns and villages across Sierra Leone. ….

Breadth vs. depth

How to best balance providing services to large proportions of populations in need, while addressing challenges of specific communities?  

We are seeing emerging evidence that the virus and measures to prevent spread are disproportionately impacting marginalized communities and minorities. For example, in indigenous people are disproportionally affected by the virus in Brazil, Dalits are among the worst affected in India. In development and humanitarian contexts, it is paramount to guide innovation efforts with explicit values, including on the trade-off between scale and addressing last-mile challenges to leaveno–one behind. For example, to facilitate behaviour-change and embed insights from behavioural science and adaptive practices, DFID is supporting the Hygiene Hub, hosted at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Hub provides free-of-charge advisory services to governments and non-governmental organizations working on COVID-19 related challenges in low and medium-income countries, balancing the need to reach large audiences and to design bespoke interventions for specific communities.  

Exploration vs. adaptation

How to best diversify innovation efforts and investments betweensearching for local solution and adapting proven approaches? 

Adaptive vs. locally-led

How to best learn and adapt, while providing ownership to local players?

Single-point solutions vs. systems-practices

How to advance specific tech and non-tech innovations that address urgent needs, while further improving existing systems? 

Supporting domestic innovators vs. strengthening local solutions and ecosystems

We need explicit conversations to ensure better transparency about this trade-off in innovation investments generally.…(More)”.

Digital inequalities 3.0: Emergent inequalities in the information age


Essay by Laura Robinson et al in FirstMonday: “Marking the 25th anniversary of the “digital divide,” we continue our metaphor of the digital inequality stack by mapping out the rapidly evolving nature of digital inequality using a broad lens. We tackle complex, and often unseen, inequalities spawned by the platform economy, automation, big data, algorithms, cybercrime, cybersafety, gaming, emotional well-being, assistive technologies, civic engagement, and mobility. These inequalities are woven throughout the digital inequality stack in many ways including differentiated access, use, consumption, literacies, skills, and production. While many users are competent prosumers who nimbly work within different layers of the stack, very few individuals are “full stack engineers” able to create or recreate digital devices, networks, and software platforms as pure producers. This new frontier of digital inequalities further differentiates digitally skilled creators from mere users. Therefore, we document emergent forms of inequality that radically diminish individuals’ agency and augment the power of technology creators, big tech, and other already powerful social actors whose dominance is increasing….(More)”

Governing in a pandemic: from parliamentary sovereignty to autocratic technocracy


Paper by Eric Windholz: “Emergencies require governments to govern differently. In Australia, the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have been profound. The role of lawmaker has been assumed by the executive exercising broad emergency powers. Parliaments, and the debate and scrutiny they provide, have been marginalised. The COVID-19 response also has seen the medical-scientific expert metamorphose from decision-making input into decision-maker. Extensive legislative and executive decision-making authority has been delegated to them – directly in some jurisdictions; indirectly in others. Severe restrictions on an individual’s freedom of movement, association and to earn a livelihood have been declared by them, or on their advice. Employing the analytical lens of regulatory legitimacy, this article examines and seeks to understand this shift from parliamentary sovereignty to autocratic technocracy. How has it occurred? Why has it occurred? What have been the consequences and risks of vesting significant legislative and executive power in the hands of medical-scientific experts; what might be its implications? The article concludes by distilling insights to inform the future design and deployment of public health emergency powers….(More)”.

Open Government Playbook


Gov.UK: “The document provides guidance and advice to help policy officials follow open government principles when carrying out their work…

The Playbook has been developed as a response to the growing demand from policymakers, communications, and digital professionals to integrate the principles of open government in their roles. The content of the Playbook was drafted using existing resources (see the ‘further reading’ section), and was consulted with open government experts from Involve and Open Government Partnership….(More)”.

The Dark Side of Public Innovation


Paper by Albert Meijer & Marcel Thaens: “The positive features of innovation are well known but the dark side of public innovation has received less attention. To fill this gap, this article develops a theoretical understanding of the dark side of public innovation. We explore a diversity of perverse effects on the basis of a literature review and an expert consultation. We indicate that these perverse effects can be categorized on two dimensions: low public value and low public control. We confront this exploratory analysis with the literature and conclude that the perverse effects are not coincidental but emerge from key properties of innovation processes such as creating niches for innovation and accepting uncertainty about public value outcomes. To limit perverse effects, we call for the dynamic assessment of public innovation. The challenge for innovators is to acknowledge the dark side and take measures to prevent perverse effects without killing the innovativeness of organizations…(More)“.

How to engage with policy makers: A guide for academics in the arts and humanities


Institute for Government: “The Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Institute for Government have been working in partnership for six years on the Engaging with Government programme – a three-day course for researchers in the arts and humanities. This programme helps academics develop the knowledge and skills they need to engage effectively with government and parliamentary bodies at all levels, along with the other organisations involved in the policy-making process. We, in turn, have learned a huge amount from our participants, who now form an active alumni network brimming with expertise about how to engage with policy in practice. This guide brings together some of that learning.

Arts and humanities researchers tend to have fewer formal and established routes into government than scientists. But they can, and do, engage productively in policy making. They contribute both expertise (advice based on knowledge of a field) and evidence (facts and information) and provide new ways of framing policy debates that draw on philosophical, cultural or historical perspectives.

As this guide shows, there are steps that academics can take to improve their engagement with public policy and to make it meaningful for their research. While these activities may involve an investment of time, they offer the opportunity to make a tangible difference, and are often a source of great satisfaction and inspiration for further work.

The first part of this guide describes the landscape of policy making in the UK and some of the common ways academics can engage with it.

Part two sets out six lessons from the Engaging with Government programme, illustrated with practical examples from our alumni and speaker network. These lessons are:

  • Understand the full range of individuals and groups involved in policy making – who are the key players and who do they talk to?
  • Be aware of the political context – how does your research fit in with current thinking on the issue?
  • Communicate in ways that policy makers find useful – consider your audience and be prepared to make practical recommendations.
  • Develop and maintain networks – seek to make connections with people who share your policy interest, both in person and online.
  • Remember that you are the expert – be prepared to share your general knowledge of a subject as well as your specific research.
  • Adopt a long-term perspective – you will need to be open-minded and patient to engage successfully….(More)”.