Category: show in team updates

Stefania on first pandemic of the datafied society @ZeMKI & @Milano Digital Week

May 27th 2020, As part of the Milano Digital Week, Philip Di Salvo, Daniele Gambetta and Stefania Milan discussed the complex triadic relationship between health, new technologies and privacy: between big data, contact tracing and the pandemic.

Watch the entire conversation here (in Italian)

 

June 3rd 2020, Stefania presented “from the first pandemic of the datafied society” at the Online Research Seminar series by ZeMKI, University of Bremen

– find talk below –

Protesting online: Stefania interviewed by the Dutch Tegenlicht

Only a few months ago, we were able to walk the streets with for the Women’s or climate march. Now streets are empty and activists, except for a few, stay at home. How to demonstrate in the so-called one-and-a-half meter society?

Stefania has been interviewed in an article by the Dutch critical public documentary series Tegenlicht / BackLight concerning protesting online. In light of COVID what does it mean to protest changes – read the full article here (in Dutch).

[blog] Show me the numbers: a case of impact communication in FLOSS

Author: Jeroen de Vos, header image by Ford Foundation

This blog post will explore the potential of repurposing impact assessment tools as a means to leverage funding problems in Free and Libre Open Source Software by making explicit the role they have in crucial public digital infrastructure. Two key concepts are relevant to help explain this specific exploration, the first of which is Free and Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and the central role it plays in facilitating a common software infrastructure used by both public and private organisations as well as civil society at large. The second is the notion of impact assessment as a strategy to understand, account for and communicate results of your efforts beyond merely financial numbers.

‘Money talk is kind of a taboo in the F[L]OSS community’, one respondent replied in an interview I most recently conducted at CCC 36C3. The talk he just gave outlined some of the tentative revenue models one could think of to make your software development activities more sustainable – it attracted a larger-than-expected audience with interesting follow-up questions. FLOSS software development very much draws on the internal motivation of developers or a developer community, with recurring questions of sustainability when relying on volunteering time that could be spent differently. And the complexity of this situation cannot be underestimated. The 2016 Ford Foundation report Roads and bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure (Eghbal) contextualizes some of the common problems in the open-source software development – think of for instance the lack of appreciation of invisible labour, the emotional burden of upkeeping a popular project started, or the constant struggle over motivation while being structurally un- or underfunded.

The report draws on the metaphor of FLOSS as infrastructure, since it is readily available to anyone alike, but also in needs maintenance – has its limitations, but works well to illustrate the point. Just like infrastructure supports the flows of ideas, goods and people FLOSS operates on every level of digital infrastructure, whether talking about the NTP protocol synchronizing the internet, GnuPG (an encryption protocol allowing secure communication and data sharing) or MySQL (a database structure which quickly became a go-to standard for information storage and retrieval). Another commonality: as long as the infrastructure functions, its underlying support systems are seemingly invisible. That is, up until the point of failure it is unseen to which extent both private and public goods and services and public or private communication rely on these software packages. Only at failure, it becomes painfully explicit.

The recent well-known example of this escalation taking place is with the so-called Heartbleed bug. The FLOSS OpenSSL package contains the most widely used protocol for encrypting web traffic. Due to a bug creeping into the code somewhere in 2011, attackers could intercept information from connections that should be encrypted – which rendered large parts of online infrastructure unsafe in design, including services like Google, Amazon and many others. The issue raised the attention to the OpenSSL developers’ under-capacity – only one working full time for a salary of only a third to its colleagues in commercial counterparts. This is the point where the impact assessment tools might come into play – rather than relying on controversies to make visible the apparent widespread embedding and dependency on particular pieces of software, why not use impact assessment as a way to understand public relevance?

Conducting impact assessments can help communicate the necessity of maintenance by making visible the embeddedness of FLOSS software packages – whether it is on the level of language, operating system or protocol. To briefly contextualize, impact assessment grew out of changing management needs and has been implemented in the organisation of ‘soft output’ whether it be policymaking or social entrepreneurship. It is an interventionist tool that allows defining qualitative output with subsequent quantitative proxies to help understand the implementation results in relation to the desired output as described in a theory of change. It helps to both evaluate the social, technological, economic, environmental and political value created and subsequently make insightful the extend to which obsoletion would disrupt existing public digital infrastructure.

Without going too much into detail it needs mentioning that impact assessment already made its introduction as part of reporting deliverables to funders where relevant. Part of this exercise, however, is to instrumentalize impact assessment not only for (private) reporting by projects already funded but for (public) communicating FLOSS impact especially for projects without the necessary revenue streams in place. Needless to say, this output is only one of the steps in the process of making crucial FLOSS more sustainable but an important one, assessment output might help tapping into public or private sponsorship, establishing new collaborations with governments, educators and businesses alike, and venture into other new and exciting funding models.

This piece is meant as a conversation starter, do you already know of existing strategies to help communicate FLOSS output, are you involved in creating alternative business models for for-good public data infrastructure – ideas and comments welcome. Email: jeroen@data-activism.net

As for a short disclaimer I have been working with social enterprises developing market research and impact-first business models, I have been mulling over the crossover between social entrepreneurship and (FLOSS) activism, in their common struggle for sustainability, relying on informal networks or communities of action and trying to make a social change either from within or from the outside. This blog post is an attempt to think together social entrepreneurship and data activism through the use of a use-case: impact assessment for FLOSS.

References:

Eghbal, N. (2016). Roads and bridges: The unseen labor behind our digital infrastructure. Ford Foundation.

Stefania at 2.Dh5 Festival, Utrecht

On 1-2 February, Stefania will attend the 2.Dh5 Festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She will give a presentation on “Surveillance capiralism and the future of data activism” , with a Q&A section (date and time will be announced on the 2.Dh5 Festival website).

About the presentation:

Surveillance capitalism is grounded on the transformation of human actions, interactions and emotions into data points which can be quantified, analysed and monetised. It accelerates the crisis of liberal democracies, and changes the role of information and technology in the constitution of our societies. People may react by fighting the aggressive intermediation of the industry, including social media platforms, and the snooping of the state, for example through “smart city” projects. Others may leverage the possibilities for transformative collective action harboured by big data. This talk explores how citizens, social change activists, and variably skilled users engage with datafication looking at emerging practices of “data activism”. It takes stock of the main tendencies we observe on the field, and surveys emerging areas such as algorithmic activism and device activism.

Download the presentation.

Davide in Lugano with paper on algorithms as online discourse (January 30)

Davide Beraldo will be in Lugano, Switzerland, to present a paper on ‘Algorithms as Online Discourse. Exploring topic modeling and network analysis to study algorithmic imaginaries’, co-authored with Massimo Airoldi (Lifestyle Research Center, (EMLYON Business School). The paper is a contribution to the ‘Rethinking Digital Myths. Mediation, narratives and mythopoiesis in the digital age’ workshop hosted at the Università della Svizzera Italiana.

Stefania at Workshop organized by OffTopic Lab, Milan

On 25 January 2020, Stefania will attend the workshop “Contesto urbano. Strumenti e pratiche per deostruire il Modello Milano” organised by OffTopic Lab in Milan, Italy. She will participate in the rountable “La città ambigua: presente e futuro della metropoli tra decoro, sorveglianza, greenwashing (The ambiguous city: present and future of the metropolis between decoration, surveillance, greenwashing)” from 15.00 to 18.00.

Stefania at the CPDP Computer, Privacy and Data Protection Conference, Brussels

On Thursday 23 Janurary 2020, Stefania will attend the 13th International Conference of CPDP in Brussels, Belgium. She will speak in the panel ‘Online privacy, algorithmic bias, targeted political advertising — an interdisciplinary conversation’ organized by Mozilla. She will join on stage with other speakers: Fanny Hidvegi (Access Now); Matt Rogerson (The Guardian); and Sarah Bird (Mozilla).

 

Panel Desciption:

With an increasing degree of automation in the systems responsible for content delivery, advertisement platforms and content recommender systems alike are filtering, weighting, and ranking a continuous feed of potential items to provide a tailored experience to each individual based on their personal preferences and past behaviour. The complexity of such systems introduces a sophisticated (and almost totally opaque) new layer to peoples’ ability to access information. Automated decisions drastically impact our access to information and relationship with content serving and journalistic platforms. In many cases, the definition of success for such systems is not based on individual or societal well-being, but rather on some variation of engagement or revenue. A common belief motivating the design and optimization of these algorithms is that more (private) information about an individual equates to a better experience and more valuable advertisement via increasingly specific programmatic micro-targeting. This panel will present a multidisciplinary investigation of the interaction between data collection, the algorithmic nature of content recommendation systems, the commercial forces at play for such platforms and the individual and societal consequences of their prevalence.

 

new article out: “Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps” (First Monday)

Our first article of 2020 is out! Entitled “Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps”, it reflects on the evolution of political participation and digital activism at the time of chat applications. It is part of a special issue of the open access journal First Monday dedicated to the (first) ten years of WhatsApp. The abstract is below. The article can be read at this link.

This paper investigates how the appropriation of chat apps by social actors is redesigning digital activism and political participation today. To this end, we look at the case of #Unidos Contra o Golpe (United Against the Coup), a WhatsApp “private group” which emerged in 2016 in Florianópolis, Brazil, to oppose the controversial impeachment of the then-president Dilma Rousseff. We argue that a new type of political activist is emerging within and alongside with contemporary movements: the WhatsApper, an individual who uses the chat app intensely to serve her political agenda, leveraging its affordances for political participation. We explore WhatsApp as a discursive opportunity structure and investigate the emergence of a repertoire specific to chat apps. We show how recurrent interaction in the app results into an all-purpose, identity-like sense of connectedness binding social actors together. Diffuse leadership and experimental pluralism emerge as the bare organizing principles of these groups. The paper is based on a qualitative analysis of group interactions and conversations, complemented by semi-structured interviews with group members. It shows how WhatsApp is more than a messaging app for “hanging out” with like-minded people and has come to constitute a key platform for digital activism, in particular in the Global South. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i12.10414

Cite as 

Milan, S., & Barbosa, S. (2020). Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps. First Monday, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i12.10414

Call for papers: Palabra Clave special issue

Please note an exciting upcoming special issue of Palabra Clave, titled “Latin American perspectives on datafication and artificial intelligence” with Stefania Milan & Emiliano Treré as guest editors of this special issue.
More information on the CfP here:
Call for papers (Español): http://bit.ly/Pacla-CFP-2021-2-ES

Call for papers (English): http://bit.ly/Pacla-CFP-2021-2-EN

Call for papers en (Portugués): http://bit.ly/Pacla-CFP-2021-2-PT