Showing posts with label harvard press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label harvard press. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Economist coverage of my Next Billion Users book

I have been a loyal subscriber of The Economist for more than a decade. I first got introduced to it during my Masters program in International Policy at Harvard University where everyone pretty much cited it to make their argument. I am well aware of their neo-liberal bias but am always appreciative of their strong voice, international perspective, and innovative lens to very different and often hidden trends in the current societies. 

So, of course I was absolutely thrilled to see an article grounded in my new book 'The Next Billion Users" with Harvard Press titled, How the pursuit of leisure drives internet use.

Some of their quotes from the article are as follows. 

"According to Payal Arora, a professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the internet is the leisure economy of the world’s poor. Until recently, talk of connectivity in the poor world has almost invariably been clothed in the pragmatic and well-meaning language of development. Aid agencies, international bodies and big tech companies told themselves and their funders that poor people needed an internet connection to lift themselves out of misery. They extolled farmers looking up grain prices, women seeking information on maternal health or pupils diligently signing up for online courses. The website for Facebook’s internet.org, an arm of the company focused on bringing unconnected people online, is a classic of the genre: “Imagine the difference an accurate weather report could make for a farmer planting crops, or the power of an encyclopedia for a child without textbooks…The more we connect, the better it gets.”

"In her book “The Next Billion Users”, Ms Arora finds that Westerners assume that poverty “is a compelling enough reason for the poor to choose work over play when they go online.” The poor do not see it that way. Years of fieldwork across the globe have led Ms Arora to conclude that when it comes to getting online, “play dominates work, and leisure overtakes labour.”Where people planning development strategies imagined, metaphorically at least, Blackberries providing new efficiencies and productivity, consumers wanted the chat, apps and games of the iPhone. Worthier uses tend to follow. But they are the cart not the horse."

It feels very validating considering there was much push back from some of my mentors and peers over these years on the usage of "leisure" in development studies - I was told its too peripheral a topic to focus on, I was told to be careful to be associated with such a trivial theme in research and other such warnings. Glad to have not listened to them. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Talk at the iconic Volksbühne theatre on AI for the common good

On May 6th, I will be heading to Berlin to help launch the School of Disobedience initiative and fittingly it will be at Berlin's most iconic theatre - Volksbühne, home to art and activism in Germany for over a century. The event will feature a conversation with Lorena Jaume-Palasí , the founder of The Ethical Tech Society, a non-profit focused on the social impact of technology and Advisory Council member of AI for the Spanish government. 

We will be speaking about AI for the common good. I will be giving a talk before hand on the Next Billion Users, drawing from my new book on how this population will push us to rethink what constitutes as "good" practice in AI futures. Currently, artificial intelligence delivers lots of material for projections about the future of societies. It seems to disrupt our concept of space, time and borders. Predominant is the view that AI will become or even is already a tool to create dystopias of oppression. However, this is only the view of a few, albeit famous, scholars and intellectuals. But what about those who are supposed to be oppressed? Do they play an active role in the conversation? How is their perception of artificial intelligence and datafication? And what are their visions? 

I will be debunking many of these dominant discourses of pessimism and determinism of AI futures by taking on a more bottom up and cultural approach to this topic.

The School of Disobedience is an experimental format to test new ways of independent knowledge production in the 21st century. The inspiration is the spirit of Berlin, the city as an image for this time and this world, heterogeneous, international and politicized. The goal of the School of Disobedience is to concentrate this potential of the city and put it to use for working on a common future. The combination of humanistic and technological perspectives should help to support specific projects which are based on a progressive view of society and will further our sense of justice. This was launched in fall 2018 and continuing into 2019, the School of Disobedience will work in the Grünen Salon with a set of events to test formats and content of the para-academic practice. There will be seminars open for anybody interested in the connection of academic and activist thinking and working, a lab for technologists and theoreticians, a makerspace for people with experiences in different areas, from law to coding, from NGO to academia. Each month, a different academic expert leads a seminar on his or her research and invites people of all ages, professions and experience to join as its students. There will also be monthly public evening events in the evenings, which will allow the general audience an insight into that month’s 

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.