In November-December, DATACTIVE PI Stefania Milan will participate in a number of public events where DATACTIVE will variably feature.
Internet Governance Forum (3 November)
FallingWalls Fireside chat (6 November)
Jean Monnet Network
Wagening workshop (9 and 16 November )
ASCA Summit (24 November)
Roundtable “AI and Bias in Translation”, organised by the Goethe-Institut (2 December)
“Stories of the pandemic: voices and data from communities and the South”, part of the Speaker Series of the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London (3 December). Stefania will join Vinod Pavarala (University of Hderabad, India) and Emiliano Treré (Cardiff University, UK) in a two-hour discussion on the role of community media during the COVID-19 crisis.
Digital methods for social change” workshops for the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (15-15 December)
The commentary “Techno-solutionism and the standard human in the making of the COVID-19 pandemic” by Stefania Milan has appeared in the Special Section “Viral Data” of the journal Big Data & Society. You can read it here. A video abstract is available on the journal website and YouTube as well. “Viral Data” is edited by Agnieszka Leszczynski and Matthew Zook and includes a number of important reflections, which can be accessed here.
Cite as Milan S. Techno-solutionism and the standard human in the making of the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Data & Society, 7(2). July 2020. doi:10.1177/2053951720966781
The University of Amsterdam has a new Research Priority Area dedicated to exploring “Global Digital Cultures”. Global Digital Cultures is a interdisciplinary research community for comparing and analyzing the profound changes brought about by digitization around the globe. Read more here.
The kick-off event of the new Research Priority Area featured a keynote by Prof. Louise Amoore (Durham University) in conversation with our PI Stefania Milan, along the lines of Amoore’s latest book on “Cloud Ethics” (Duke University Press, 2020).
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.
Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps
Stefania Milan, Sérgio Barbosa
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
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.
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.
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.
The January 2019 issue of First Monday includes an article by research associate Miren Gutierrez and PI Stefania Milan on the consequences of engagement with data. The article is entitled “Playing with data and its consequences” and is the lead article of the issue. Check it out!
Abstract. The fundamental paradigm shift brought about by datafication alters how people participate as citizens on a daily basis. “Big data” has come to constitute a new terrain of engagement, which brings organized collective action, communicative practices and data infrastructure into a fruitful dialogue. While scholarship is progressively acknowledging the emergence of bottom-up data practices, to date no research has explored the influence of these practices on the activists themselves. Leveraging the disciplines of critical data and social movement studies, this paper explores “proactive data activism”, using, producing and/or appropriating data for social change, and examines its biographical, political, tactical and epistemological consequences. Approaching engagement with data as practice, this study focuses on the social contexts in which data are produced, consumed and circulated, and analyzes how tactics, skills and emotions of individuals evolve in interplay with data. Through content and co-occurrence analysis of semi-structured practitioner interviews (N=20), the article shows how the employment of data and data infrastructure in activism fundamentally transforms the way activists go about changing the world.
Citation: Gutierrez, Milan and Stefania Milan (2019). Playing with data and its consequences, First Monday, Volume 24, Number 1 – 7 January 2019, https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9554/7716