Human Rights in the Age of Platforms


Book edited by Rikke Frank Jørgensen: “Today such companies as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter play an increasingly important role in how users form and express opinions, encounter information, debate, disagree, mobilize, and maintain their privacy. What are the human rights implications of an online domain managed by privately owned platforms? According to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Right Council in 2011, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights and to carry out human rights due diligence. But this goal is dependent on the willingness of states to encode such norms into business regulations and of companies to comply. In this volume, contributors from across law and internet and media studies examine the state of human rights in today’s platform society.

The contributors consider the “datafication” of society, including the economic model of data extraction and the conceptualization of privacy. They examine online advertising, content moderation, corporate storytelling around human rights, and other platform practices. Finally, they discuss the relationship between human rights law and private actors, addressing such issues as private companies’ human rights responsibilities and content regulation…(More)”.

Why Trust Science?


Book by Naomi Oreskes: “Do doctors really know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don’t? In this landmark book, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength—and the greatest reason we can trust it.

Tracing the history and philosophy of science from the late nineteenth century to today, Oreskes explains that, contrary to popular belief, there is no single scientific method. Rather, the trustworthiness of scientific claims derives from the social process by which they are rigorously vetted. This process is not perfect—nothing ever is when humans are involved—but she draws vital lessons from cases where scientists got it wrong. Oreskes shows how consensus is a crucial indicator of when a scientific matter has been settled, and when the knowledge produced is likely to be trustworthy.

Based on the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Princeton University, this timely and provocative book features critical responses by climate experts Ottmar Edenhofer and Martin Kowarsch, political scientist Jon Krosnick, philosopher of science Marc Lange, and science historian Susan Lindee, as well as a foreword by political theorist Stephen Macedo….(More)”.

Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It


Book by Richard Stengel: “Disinformation is as old as humanity. When Satan told Eve nothing would happen if she bit the apple, that was disinformation. But the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious in our current era. In a disturbing turn of events, governments are increasingly using disinformation to create their own false narratives, and democracies are proving not to be very good at fighting it.

During the final three years of the Obama administration, Richard Stengel, the former editor of Time and an Under Secretary of State, was on the front lines of this new global information war. At the time, he was the single person in government tasked with unpacking, disproving, and combating both ISIS’s messaging and Russian disinformation. Then, in 2016, as the presidential election unfolded, Stengel watched as Donald Trump used disinformation himself, weaponizing the grievances of Americans who felt left out by modernism. In fact, Stengel quickly came to see how all three players had used the same playbook: ISIS sought to make Islam great again; Putin tried to make Russia great again; and we all know about Trump.

In a narrative that is by turns dramatic and eye-opening, Information Wars walks readers through of this often frustrating battle. Stengel moves through Russia and Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and introduces characters from Putin to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Mohamed bin Salman to show how disinformation is impacting our global society. He illustrates how ISIS terrorized the world using social media, and how the Russians launched a tsunami of disinformation around the annexation of Crimea – a scheme that became the model for their interference with the 2016 presidential election. An urgent book for our times, Information Wars stresses that we must find a way to combat this ever growing threat to democracy….(More)”.

Democratic Transparency in the Platform Society


Chapter by Robert Gorwa and Timothy Garton Ash: “Following an host of major scandals, transparency has emerged in recent years as one of the leading accountability mechanisms through which the companies operating global platforms for user-generated content have attempted to regain the trust of the public, politicians, and regulatory authorities. Ranging from Facebook’s efforts to partner with academics and create a reputable mechanism for third party data access and independent research to the expanded advertising disclosure tools being built for elections around the world, transparency is playing a major role in current governance debates around free expression, social media, and democracy.

This article thus seeks to (a) contextualize the recent implementation of transparency as enacted by platform companies with an overview of the ample relevant literature on digital transparency in both theory and practice; (b) consider the potential positive governance impacts of transparency as a form of accountability in the current political moment; and (c) reflect upon the potential shortfalls of transparency that should be considered by legislators, academics, and funding bodies weighing the relative benefits of policy or research dealing with transparency in this area…(More)”.

Big Data Analytics in Healthcare


Book edited by Anand J. Kulkarni, Patrick Siarry, Pramod Kumar Singh, Ajith Abraham, Mengjie Zhang, Albert Zomaya and Fazle Baki: “This book includes state-of-the-art discussions on various issues and aspects of the implementation, testing, validation, and application of big data in the context of healthcare. The concept of big data is revolutionary, both from a technological and societal well-being standpoint. This book provides a comprehensive reference guide for engineers, scientists, and students studying/involved in the development of big data tools in the areas of healthcare and medicine. It also features a multifaceted and state-of-the-art literature review on healthcare data, its modalities, complexities, and methodologies, along with mathematical formulations.

The book is divided into two main sections, the first of which discusses the challenges and opportunities associated with the implementation of big data in the healthcare sector. In turn, the second addresses the mathematical modeling of healthcare problems, as well as current and potential future big data applications and platforms…(More)”.

The Narrow Corridor


Book by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson: “…In their new book, they build a new theory about liberty and how to achieve it, drawing a wealth of evidence from both current affairs and disparate threads of world history.  

Liberty is hardly the “natural” order of things. In most places and at most times, the strong have dominated the weak and human freedom has been quashed by force or by customs and norms. Either states have been too weak to protect individuals from these threats, or states have been too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. Liberty emerges only when a delicate and precarious balance is struck between state and society.

There is a Western myth that political liberty is a durable construct, arrived at by a process of “enlightenment.” This static view is a fantasy, the authors argue. In reality, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only via a fundamental and incessant struggle between state and society: The authors look to the American Civil Rights Movement, Europe’s early and recent history, the Zapotec civilization circa 500 BCE, and Lagos’s efforts to uproot corruption and institute government accountability to illustrate what it takes to get and stay in the corridor. But they also examine Chinese imperial history, colonialism in the Pacific, India’s caste system, Saudi Arabia’s suffocating cage of norms, and the “Paper Leviathan” of many Latin American and African nations to show how countries can drift away from it, and explain the feedback loops that make liberty harder to achieve. 

Today we are in the midst of a time of wrenching destabilization. We need liberty more than ever, and yet the corridor to liberty is becoming narrower and more treacherous. The danger on the horizon is not “just” the loss of our political freedom, however grim that is in itself; it is also the disintegration of the prosperity and safety that critically depend on liberty. The opposite of the corridor of liberty is the road to ruin….(More)”.

Open Cities | Open Data: Collaborative Cities in the Information Era


Book edited by Scott Hawken, Hoon Han and Chris Pettit: “Today the world’s largest economies and corporations trade in data and its products to generate value in new disruptive markets. Within these markets vast streams of data are often inaccessible or untapped and controlled by powerful monopolies. Counter to this exclusive use of data is a promising world-wide “open-data” movement, promoting freely accessible information to share, reuse and redistribute. The provision and application of open data has enormous potential to transform exclusive, technocratic “smart cities” into inclusive and responsive “open-cities”.


This book argues that those who contribute urban data should benefit from its production. Like the city itself, the information landscape is a public asset produced through collective effort, attention, and resources. People produce data through their engagement with the city, creating digital footprints through social medial, mobility applications, and city sensors. By opening up data there is potential to generate greater value by supporting unforeseen collaborations, spontaneous urban innovations and solutions, and improved decision-making insights. Yet achieving more open cities is made challenging by conflicting desires for urban anonymity, sociability, privacy and transparency. This book engages with these issues through a variety of critical perspectives, and presents strategies, tools and case studies that enable this transformation….(More)”.

Digital Media and Wireless Communication in Developing Nations: Agriculture, Education, and the Economic Sector


Book by Megh R. Goyal and Emmanuel Eilu: “… explores how digital media and wireless communication, especially mobile phones and social media platforms, offer concrete opportunities for developing countries to transform different sectors of their economies. The volume focuses on the agricultural, economic, and education sectors. The chapter authors, mostly from Africa and India, provide a wealth of information on recent innovations, the opportunities they provide, challenges faced, and the direction of future research in digital media and wireless communication to leverage transformation in developing countries….(More)”.

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities


Book by Vaclav Smil: “Growth has been both an unspoken and an explicit aim of our individual and collective striving. It governs the lives of microorganisms and galaxies; it shapes the capabilities of our extraordinarily large brains and the fortunes of our economies. Growth is manifested in annual increments of continental crust, a rising gross domestic product, a child’s growth chart, the spread of cancerous cells. In this magisterial book, Vaclav Smil offers systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations.

Smil takes readers from bacterial invasions through animal metabolisms to megacities and the global economy. He begins with organisms whose mature sizes range from microscopic to enormous, looking at disease-causing microbes, the cultivation of staple crops, and human growth from infancy to adulthood. He examines the growth of energy conversions and man-made objects that enable economic activities—developments that have been essential to civilization. Finally, he looks at growth in complex systems, beginning with the growth of human populations and proceeding to the growth of cities. He considers the challenges of tracing the growth of empires and civilizations, explaining that we can chart the growth of organisms across individual and evolutionary time, but that the progress of societies and economies, not so linear, encompasses both decline and renewal. The trajectory of modern civilization, driven by competing imperatives of material growth and biospheric limits, Smil tells us, remains uncertain….(More)”.

Great Policy Successes


Book by Mallory Compton and Edited by Paul ‘t Hart: “With so much media and political criticism of their shortcomings and failures, it is easy to overlook the fact that many governments work pretty well much of the time. Great Policy Successes turns the spotlight on instances of public policy that are remarkably successful. It develops a framework for identifying and assessing policy successes, paying attention not just to their programmatic outcomes but also to the quality of the processes by which policies are designed and delivered, the level of support and legitimacy they attain, and the extent to which successful performance endures over time. The bulk of the book is then devoted to 15 detailed case studies of striking policy successes from around the world, including Singapore’s public health system, Copenhagen and Melbourne’s rise from stilted backwaters to the highly liveable and dynamic urban centres they are today, Brazil’s Bolsa Familia poverty relief scheme, the US’s GI Bill, and Germany’s breakthrough labour market reforms of the 2000s. Each case is set in context, its main actors are introduced, key events and decisions are described, the assessment framework is applied to gauge the nature and level of its success, key contributing factors to success are identified, and potential lessons and future challenges are identified. Purposefully avoiding the kind of heavy theorizing that characterizes many accounts of public policy processes, each case is written in an accessible and narrative style ideally suited for classroom use in conjunction with mainstream textbooks on public policy design, implementation, and evaluation….(More)”.