Monday, April 29, 2019

Keynote at the BRESTOLON symposium network

Was nice to head back to ZEMKI Bremen where I did my fellowship last year to give a keynote talk on The Next Billion Users book with Harvard Press. This was for the BRESTOLON network which is an interesting formation of academic networks to sustain mentorship across diverse academic cultures and countries. The quality of questions and engagement was wonderful and am thrilled that one can accomplish such a network - a rare feat today!
Basically, Brestolon is a research network collaboration between members of the Media and Communications Departments of Södertörn University(Stockholm, Sweden); Bremen University (Bremen, Germany); London School of Economics (London, UK), and Goldsmiths, University of London(London, UK) and Catholic University of Portugal (Lisbon, Portugal).
The network was launched in 2013 with a grant by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Reserach and Education (STINT). Since then, it has gathered annually at the member universities in Stockholm (twice) and once in London, Bremen, and Lisbon. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Book launch at Athenaeum bookstore in Amsterdam

Seems like these days I am having a lot of "first" moments. My first studio talk with BBC, which will be broadcast in the next few weeks and then my first talk at a book store. Had my book launch at the Athenaeum bookstore  in Amsterdam. Was such an interesting experience. Completely casual and intimate. A load of chairs and comfy couches clustered tightly together so you could have a real conversation with people. The audience was eclectic from retired people, tech entrepreneurs, media agencies, students, academics, and just folk interested in the topic. The format was smart - Tina Harris, an anthropologist from University of Amsterdam engaged me in a conversation before we opened it up for questions. Nicely done overall. What better way to officially launch my book than to do it in such a lovely setting in my favorite city that I call home now!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

New paper on Data-Based Governance out in First Monday

Hallam Stevens from Nanjang Technological University and I co-edited a Special Issue in First Monday, one of the first Open Access journals on the internet. The theme of this issue is "Data-driven models of governance across borders: Datafication from the local to the global."

In essence, this special issue looks closely at contemporary data systems in diverse global contexts and through this set of papers, highlights the struggles we face as we negotiate efficiency and innovation with universal human rights and social inclusion. The studies presented in these essays are situated in diverse models of policy-making, governance, and/or activism across borders. Attention to big data governance in western contexts has tended to highlight how data increases state and corporate surveillance of citizens, affecting rights to privacy. By moving beyond Euro-American borders — to places such as Africa, India, China, and Singapore — we show here how data regimes are motivated and understood on very different terms.

It was wonderful to work with Hallam as we both were in sync on how to approach this theme and draw quality submissions and manage the review process to the final round. This theme first emerged from our panel that we held at Association of Internet Researchers in Tartu, Estonia in 2017.

Within this Issue, I also published my own individual paper on "Benign dataveillance? Examining novel data-driven governance systems in India and China." This paper has been in the works since but has since then been presented and reworked in a number of different workshops such as AoIR2017 , Data Justice Lab at Cardiff and Computational Social Science in London. In November 2018, as a Fellow in ZEMKI at the University of Bremen, I was able to sharpen it to completion.

This paper basically examines novel data-driven models of governance emerging from the Global South, specifically India and China, enabled by Net-based technologies. The first model, the biometric identity scheme or ‘Aadhaar’ project in India consolidates citizens’ digital identities to enable access to government services such as welfare benefits. The second model is China’s Social Credit System. By combining the citizens’ financial records, online shopping data, social media behaviour and employment history, the system will produce a personal score for each citizen. This rating system will be used to measure the citizens’ trustworthiness. This research unpacks these value-embedded systems posited as digital innovations to strengthen citizenship through new forms of political participation, inclusion and representation. In doing so, we are confronted with what constitutes as “democracy” in this datafied and global era, beyond the universalisms that are on offer today.