We would like to thank the Amsterdam Center for European Studies (ACES – https://aces.uva.nl) for supporting interviews transcription at DATACTIVE with a small grant.
On April 9, Stefania was in Berlin to give a talk at the Magnus-Haus, the headquarters of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society), as part of the Physik und Gesellschaft series.
The talk was entitled /Error 404: Social Life Not Found/ – How to bring politics back into the datafied society, and was moderated by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Eberhardt.
Datafication – or the process of rendering into data aspects of social life that have never been quantified before – has altered the way we experience ourselves and exercise our citizenship today. Blanket surveillance and privacy infringements, however, are making citizens grow aware of the critical role of information as the new fabric of social life. As the advent of datafication and the automation turn threaten social life as we know it, how can we re-invent citizenship? How can we bring progressive politics back, to inform, among others, technological development and public policies? In this talk I will reflect on how politics and citizen agency are re-designed in light of the challenges and possibilities of big data and machine learning.
On April 5-7, Stefania will attend the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. She will speak in the panel ‘Facing the challenges of a datafied society’, on Saturday at 5pm. She will join on stage Philip Di Salvo (Institute of Media and Journalism USI), Colin Porlezza (Department of Journalism City University, London), and Adrienne Russell (University of Washington).
The contemporary datafied society is hybrid in nature: information technology, policy makers, activists and participatory publics all converge in shaping today’s mediated landscape. Making sense and interpreting these elements comes with new challenges for journalists whose role it is to help citizens understand the mechanisms of today’s democracy and its potential abuses. The Snowden revelations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, among others, have deeply impacted our understanding of the contemporary digital area, such as mass surveillance, the role of algorithms, and the perils of the data economy. These cases, among others, also exhibit some of the complex hybridization processes journalism is going through, both on a practical and on a cultural level. New players like hackers and activists entered the journalism field either through collaboration with journalists or by creating new tools, strategies and standards. In both cases they introduce new themes and debates into the news agenda. This panel, composed of academics and practitioners, will explore the role of journalism in shaping debates and issues about the datafied society and highlight some of the most successful examples of today’s hybrid journalism.
We are happy to announce the first in our 2019 DATACTIVE Working Paper Series, by Guillen Torres:
Torres, G. (2019) “Auditing the State: Everyday Day Forms of Institutional Resistance in the Mexican Freedom of Information Process”, DATACTIVE Working paper series, No 1/2019 ISSN: 2666-0733.
Governmental transparency through Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws has become a standard in modern liberal democracies. However, a recent trend documented by practitioners and academics alike consists of governments stating in paper their support for transparency, but in practice implementing various kinds of strategies to limit the flow of information towards engaged citizens, increasing secrecy and opaqueness. While scholarly attention has mostly been set on the motivations and effects of secrecy within institutions, the consequences experienced by politically engaged citizens have received less interest. In this paper I focus on how information activists experience and make sense of instances of information control during the performance of the FOI process, through a case study set in Mexico. I suggest that the constant denials, delays and obstructions activists face during the process of requesting information can be productively analyzed through the concept of Everyday Forms of Resistance.
About the DATACTIVE working paper series
The DATACTIVE Working Paper Series presents results of the DATACTIVE research project. The series aims to disseminate the results of their research to a wider audience. An editorial committee consisting of the DATACTIVE PI and Postdoctoral fellows reviews the quality of the Working Papers. The Series aims to disseminate research results in an accessible manner to a wider audience. Readers are encouraged to provide the authors with feedback and/or questions.
DATACTIVE, and Becky Kazansky (@pondswimmer) and Stefania Milan (@annliffey) in particular, is in Valencia on April 1-5 to take part in the 5th edition of the Internet Freedom Festival. In particular, Stefania will join a session entitled “The IFF in context: The transnational social movement for digital rights“, organised by Nathalie Marechal (Ranking Digital Rights) and Efrat Daskal (Northeaster University), injecting some history into the present digital rights struggles.
Come say hello!
Stefania and Niels will attend the annual convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), in Toronto March 26-29. Stefania will present a paper, co-authored with Nina Hall (SAIS, Jonhs Hopkins) touching upon the IR-related side the DATACTIVE project, focusing on contemporary transformations of global digital advocacy in light of digitalisation and datafication.
In March 26th, Stefania and Niels will also participate the workshop ‘Digital Democracy: Global Dimension’ at McMaster University in Hamilton, organised by Tony Porter and Netina Tan of the Digital Democracy Hub at McMaster.
On March 27th, Stefania will lecture in digital methods and tool development (including within our new ALEX project) at Glendon College (York University), in the “Advanced Research Methods” taught by Evan Light.
On March the 20th, Stefania visited King’s College, in London, to conclude the graduate course on data activism designed and taught by Jonathan Gray, Lecturer of Critical Infrastructure and formerly a postdoc with us at DATACTIVE <3. Check out the course here. Stefania was asked to talk about emerging forms of data activism.
Niels ten Oever held a talk on the subversion of equality and freedom of users in the Internet architecture at the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The talk built on a mixed methods analysis of the Internet architecture and its technical governance, and showed how the Internet protocol community structurally did not uphold the values it professes, such as end-to-end, permissionless innovation, and openness. This opened up a discussion how such governance institutions could then be expected to safeguard external principles, such as the public values, which might run counter to the interests of many of the represented stakeholders. This sparked a lively discussion among the attending academics and policy makers about value frameworks and analytical tools and approaches that transverse the fields of technologists, policy makers, the law, and academia.
The municipality of Amsterdam published its Digital Agenda in which it presents its ambitions to become a free, inclusive, and creative digital city. Amsterdam is grounding its ambitions on the early experiences with networking technology in the Netherlands, after which the agenda was called: The Digital City (De Digitale Stad). At DATACTIVE Niels ten Oever thoroughly analyzed the agenda and commend the city for its ambition to base the digital city of the future on digital rights. The approach of the city is anchored in concepts such as privacy, inclusivity, transparency, sovereignty, autonomy, universal access, transparency, openness, participation, and security, which are to be developed in a ‘Cities Coalition for Digital Rights’, and through interviews and cocreation sessions.
While the ambition is very laudable, the agenda has little to no references to existing legal, ethical, or technical standards on which this work can build. This could lead to a duplication of efforts, and a repetition of (expensive) mistakes that have already been made. This is why Jeroen de Vos represented DATACTIVE at the meeting of the Amsterdam Municipal Commission on Art, Diversity, and Democratization and offered suggestions that could assist the successful design, implementation, and evaluation of the Digital Agenda. The full text of the contribution can be read underneath (in Dutch). In the contribution DATACTIVE reiterates the importance of human rights in general and the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, the international standards for state and corporate accountability in specific, in the implementation of technical infrastructures.
We hope and trust that our analysis of the report, which we shared with the municipality, will be our first contribution to the construction of a public information infrastructure in Amsterdam.
The original text of the oral contribution as read by Jeroen de Vos:
Geachte leden van de Raadscommissie Kunst Diversiteit en Democratisering,
Ik spreek hier namens DATACTIVE, een onderzoeksgroep aan de universiteit van Amsterdam die de sociale en democratische consequenties van datastromen onderzoekt. Wij namen dan ook met grote waardering kennis van de ambitie van de gemeente om een digitale strategie te ontwikkelen waarin mensenrechten een belangrijke plek krijgen. De gemeente plaatst zich hiermee midden een debat over de technologische infrastructuur van onze samenleving.
Wij hopen dat de gemeente niet zal proberen het wiel opnieuw uit te vinden: er zijn reeds veel digitale vrijheidsverklaringen, mensenrechtenverdragen, en technische standaarden ontwikkeld op dit gebied die de gemeente zo kan overnemen. Hierover wordt niets gezegd in de digitale agenda. Dat zou een gemiste kans zijn.
Wij willen van harte aanbevelen dat de gemeente in kaart brengt op welke verdragen, implementatieraamwerken, en technische standaarden ze zich gaat baseren. Dat kan worden gedaan als aanvulling op de agenda en meegenomen worden bij de uitvoering. Dit zal ook de implementatie van de agenda ten goede komen, omdat er dan heldere indicatoren en evaluatie criteria zijn en daarmee goed duidelijk wordt wat de digitale agenda gaat betekenen voor Amsterdammers.
Een van de belangrijke raamwerken die al bestaan, zijn de zogenaamde Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights van de Verenigde Naties. Dat is wereldwijd zowel in bij overheden als bij bedrijven de gouden standaard voor de implementatie van digitale rechten. Het zou goed zijn als deze wordt betrokken bij de uitvoering van de Agenda Digitale Stad.
Als de gemeente dat niet doet, zal zij geen kennis hebben van best practices, vanaf het begin achterlopen met de implementatie, en reeds gemaakte fouten en werk dupliceren.
Wij zijn natuurlijk bereid mee te denken, Amsterdam te situeren in de voorhoede van de infrastructurele digitale mensenrechten discussie.