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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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:
On December 10th Stefania will be at Exeter College, University of Oxford, to take part in the Intercultural Digital Ethics Symposium (IDES), organised by the Digital Ethics Lab of the Oxford Internet Institute. Check out the program here.
Today Lonneke will present on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) as Public Practice, at the Netherlands Intelligence Studies Association.
Our advisory board member Ron Deibert will be one of the keynote speakers, and will speak on The Coming Dark Age in Global Cyberspace!
Starting in November, we would like to welcome three additions to the DATACTIVE team. We will have Sander van Haperen, Zhen Ye and Tomás Dodds Rohas (left-to-right) each joining us for a couple of months to strengthen the team making the most out of our final year of research.
Please find the individual profiles below (and on our team page).
Sander van Haperen is postdoc fellow at DATACTIVE. He studies the development of social movements, with a particular interest in leadership, governance, and digital networks. His research advances computational methods, drawing on social media, complexity, and network analysis, as well as qualitative inquiry.
Zhen Ye is a student assistant at DATACTIVE. She is currently enrolled in Media Studies as a Research Master student at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests focuses on (gendered) digital labour on social media platforms.
Tomás Dodds Rojas is a PhD researcher at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University. His research is concerned with how newsmakers are appropriating digital technologies and how these innovations are transforming the infrastructure, temporality and form of the newsmaking process.
On October 23-25, Stefania will be in Tel Aviv to take part in the international workshop “Algorithmic Knowledge in Culture and in the Media” at the Open University of Israel. The invitation-only workshop is organized by Eran Fisher, Anat Ben-David and Norma Musih. Stefania will present a paper on the ALEX project, DATACTIVE’s spin-off, as an experiment into algorithmic knowledge.
Unpacking the Effects of Personalization Algorithms: Experimental Methodologies and Their Ethical Challenges
Stefania Milan, University of Amsterdam
With social media platforms playing an ever-prominent role in today’s public sphere, concerns have been raised by multiple parties regarding the role of personalization algorithms in shaping people’s perception of the world around them. Personalization algorithms are accused of promoting the so-called ‘filter bubble’ (Pariser 2011) and suspected of intensifying political polarization. What’s more, said algorithms are shielded behind trade secrets, which contributes to their technical undecipherability (Pasquale 2015). Against this backdrop, the ALgorithms EXposed (ALEX) project, has set off trying to unpack the effects of personalization algorithms, experimenting with methodologies, software developments, and collaborations with hackers, nongovernmental organizations, and small enterprises. In this presentation, I will reflect on four aspects of the ALEX project as an experiment into algorithmic knowledge, and namely: i) software development, illustrating the working of the browser extensions facebook.tracking.exposed and youtube.tracking.exposed; ii) experimental collaborations within and beyond academia; iii) methodological challenges, including the use of bots; and iv) ethical challenges, in particular the development of data reuse protocols allowing users to volunteer their data for scientific research while individual safeguarding data sovereignty.
The European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) organized a workshop about Infrastructures and Inequalities. Here Niels presented his recent work on an experiment to inscribe legal and ethical norms into the Internet routing infrastructure. The conference helped to further concept of infrastructure, that continues to gaining traction in the fields of geography, media studies, anthropology, and science and technology studies.