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Schermafdruk van 2019-05-14 16.41.58

fbTREX reaction to Facebook collaboration

Research associate Claudio Agosti argues the need for independent critical research in a reaction to the news that Facebook is opening its door to scholars for academic research. The statement on the EU19 tracking exposed project website portrays why academic research should not be delimited by corporate conditions for research only;  we should engage in independent critical research to platforms that important for our online public democratic spaces.

Claudio on Twitter: “Last week Facebook announced would share some data with some researchers: don’t be fooled, it is not a gift.”

Read the full statement here

facebook.tracking.exposed allows re-purposing social media data for critical research goals. It is currently employed in a use-case for analyzing the European Elections 2019. Claudio Agosti is DATACTIVE research associate, and fbTREX is hosted by DATACTIVE / ALEX as a form of data activism in-practice.

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“Big Data from the South”: new article & Special Issue out

We are very proud to announce the publication of the Special Issue “Big Data from the South” in the journal Television & New Media. Edited by DATACTIVE PI Stefania Milan and Emiliano Treré (Data Justice Lab), it features six articles and a commentary:

* Stefania Milan and Emiliano Treré: ‘Big Data from the South(s): Beyond Data Universalism’ (Milan/Treré) (>> open access at https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476419837739)*
* Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias: Data Colonialism: Rethinking Big Data’s Relation to the Contemporary Subject
* Paola Ricaurte: Data Epistemologies, The Coloniality of Power, and Resistance
* Payal Arora: Decolonizing Privacy Studies
* Monique Mann and Angela Daly: (Big) Data and the North-in-South: Australia’s Informational Imperialism and Digital Colonialism
* Jean-Marie Chenou and Carolina Cepeda-Másmela: #NiUnaMenos: Data Activism From the Global South
* María Soledad Segura and Silvio Waisbord: Between Data Capitalism and Data Citizenship (commentary)

You can explore the Special Issue at https://journals.sagepub.com/toc/tvna/current
The leading article, entitled “Big Data from the South: Beyond Data Universalism”, is open access at this page.

Abstract. This article introduces the tenets of a theory of datafication of and in the Souths. It calls for a de-Westernization of critical data studies, in view of promoting a reparation to the cognitive injustice that fails to recognize non-mainstream ways of knowing the world through data. It situates the “Big Data from the South” research agenda as an epistemological, ontological, and ethical program and outlines five conceptual operations to shape this agenda. First, it suggests moving past the “universalism” associated with our interpretations of datafication. Second, it advocates understanding the South as a composite and plural entity, beyond the geographical connotation (i.e., “global South”). Third, it postulates a critical engagement with the decolonial approach. Fourth, it argues for the need to bring agency to the core of our analyses. Finally, it suggests embracing the imaginaries of datafication emerging from the Souths, foregrounding empowering ways of thinking data from the margins.

To continue the conversation about Southern and resistant epistemologies of datafication (well beyond the ‘Global South’!), visit the webpage of the Big Data from the South Initiative [1], check out the multilingual blog (and consider to contribute to it!), and join the dedicated mailing-list.
If you have access problems, get in touch with us.

Cite as Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2019). Big Data from the South(s): Beyond Data Universalism. Television & New Media, 20(4), 319–335. https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476419837739

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Stefania at the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, Berlin

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.

Abstract
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.

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DATACTIVE at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia

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).

Facing the challenges of a datafied society: how journalist, activists and hackers can make sense of datafication

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.

Technologische soevereiniteit vol2

Constructing Technological Sovereignty

By Lonneke van der Velden, DATACTIVE   

A couple of weeks, ago a part of the DATACTIVE team attended the book launch of the Dutch translation of ‘Technological Sovereignty’ at the Hackerspace TechInc in Amsterdam. The main talk at the book launch was given by one of the authors of the book, Spideralex, a feminist researcher on ICT for the public good. In her talk, Spideralex introduced the notion of technological sovereignty as being inspired by some reflections by Margarita Padilla, a feminist thinker and programmer. Padilla’s claim is that we ‘lost’ technological sovereignty: people are increasingly dependent on (digital) technologies, and even the seemingly active use of these tools is passive, because the people do not control the resources. Control is mainly delegated to big corporations. In response to this, increasingly, perceived loss, Spideralex and others went on a conceptual and practical journey to find, redefine, and reclaim technological sovereignty.

Conceptually, they situated the notion of technological sovereignty in relation to other notions of sovereignty, such as, sovereignty in relation to land or territory, in relation to the body, and in relation to food. Especially the latter form and the existing cooperatives enacting food sovereignty in Catalonia have been inspirational for the authors to rethink the relation between technology, labor, fair production and distribution.

She referred to La Via Campesina, an international peasant’s movement, in which this notion is defined as follows:

‘Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation’ (Via Campesina, cited in “For Free Information and Open Internet” 2014, p.166).

Along similar lines, Spideralex explained that technologies should not only be of tactical use; they should become a domain that is produced and controlled by the people, and dedicated to social change.

Practically, a whole range of examples passed by. Such as a local alternative WIFI community network Guifi and feminist servers (run by feminists and dedicated to host websites supporting feminist issues). Sophie Toupin, a researcher from McGill University joining the talk, discussed a historical example of ‘project Vula’, an encrypted communication system used in the liberation struggle during the Apartheid regime (see Toupin 2016). Spideralex also addressed artisan techniques and reevaluated them as methods being learned within, and owned by, small communities.

Finally she spoke about Calafou, an ‘eco-industrial postcapitalist colony’ in Spain just outside of Barcelona. In the ruins of an old industrial workers colony, the Calafou collective built their own post-capitalist society. They live together as a community, and they organise festivals and events. There is a hacklab, they work on free libraries, trans-hack feminism, and they run a biolab in which they measure and target pollution, especially metals in the environment.

The discussion afterwards was very interesting. People discussed to what extent the notions of sovereignty and autonomy differed, and the localization of the term: in some places people might be more inclined to use sovereignty to describe their own practices than in other places. The situatedness of the understanding of the term also matters, of course, to the extent we can use it as an analytical concept. From a perspective on data activism, it is interesting to see how activists coin and develop conceptual notions to deal with the challenges of our time, in tandem with practical work; hence, to see ‘concept production’ in network cultures (Lovink and Rossiter 2012) in the making.

Information about the book

The book is available in multiple languages: https://sobtec.gitbooks.io/sobtec2/. It was translated into Dutch by Kel, Ivom, Winston, Ptrc, Lara, Kwadro, and is downloadable here . This volume 2 is a follow up to a first volume that was produced in 2014 and is available in French, Spanish, Catalan and Italian (also available in the git repo). Half of the articles were also translated to English in For Free Information and Open Internet: Independent journalists, community media and hacktivists take action.

The event was hosted by TechInc. More information about the event here.

 

 

Lonneke van der Velden is postdoctoral researcher with DATACTIVE and a lecturer at the department of media studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her research deals with internet surveillance and activism. She is part of the editorial board of Krisis, Journal for Contemporary Philosophy, and is on the Board of Directors of Bits of Freedom.   

 

References

“For Free Information and Open Internet: Independent journalists, community media and hacktivists take action” (2014). Ritmo, The Passerelle Collection, no. 11. https://www.coredem.info/IMG/pdf/pass11_an-2.pdf

Lovink, Geert and Ned Rossiter (2011). “In Praise of Concept Production: Formats, Schools and Non-Representational Media Studies. https://nedrossiter.org/?p=242

Spideralex (Ed). Technologische Soevereiniteit, Vol. 2, 2019. https://sobtec.gitbooks.io/sobtec2/nl/

Toupin, Sophie (2016). “Gesturing Towards ‘Anti-Colonial Hacking’ and Its Infrastructure’, The Journal of Peer Production (9).

Schermafdruk van 2019-04-02 13.46.54

“Auditing the state”: new Working Paper by Guillen Torres

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.

(DOWNLOAD THE PAPER HERE)

Abstract
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.

 

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DATACTIVE at the 5th Internet Freedom Festival

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!

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HTTP workshop hosted by DATACTIVE

This week, the fourth HTTP Workshop is taking place in Amsterdam, hosted by DATACTIVE in the University of Amsterdam. This event gathers people who work on and use the Web’s protocol to talk about how it’s working, what needs improving and where it might go in the future. As such, it’s an open, frank round table of people who work on Web browsers, servers, proxies, content management systems, and CDNs, along with those who use it to deploy Web sites big and small, as well as use HTTP for things like APIs.

This is different from a standards body, where normative decisions about the design of the Internet and Web are made; rather, it’s an informal discussion that’s designed to gather input from and inform those who don’t have time or money to go to multiple standards meetings.

Although many topics are likely to be discussed, one of the primary things we always focus on is security and privacy. In the past, we’ve explored how to improve adoption of HTTPS after the Snowden revelations. This time, current topics are likely to include even stronger measures against network attackers and observers, such as Encrypted SNI, DNS-over-HTTP (DoH), and anti-traffic analysis measures.

We’re also scheduled to talk about the continued deployment of HTTP/2 and its implications, along with the upcoming HTTP/3, and a large number of blue-sky proposals to evolve the protocol. We’ll also examine how we can grow to be more diverse and inclusive. It’s usually an exciting event and we’re looking forward to the discussion, as well as our time in Amsterdam.

For more information about the HTTP Workshop, see https://httpworkshop.github.io/
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Stefania and Niels at ISA Toronto

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.