Cui bono, Data Science?

IDS_jarke Very much looking forward to presenting at the Data Science Forum (University of Bremen) next Thursday (17th June, 12pm CEST). I will engage with some of the work on Data Science that has emerged in STS and critical data studies and report from our own projects. Here is an interview that gives a short preview.

The Problematic Framing of Machine Learning

I am super excited that the paper I have co-authored with Hendrik Heuer and Andreas Breiter on the problematic framing of Machine Learning in tutorials has been published in Big Data & Society. Machine learning has become a key component of contemporary information systems. Unlike prior information systems explicitly programmed in formal languages, ML systems infer rules from data. In the paper we show what this difference means for the critical analysis of socio-technical systems based on machine learning. To provide a foundation for future critical analysis of machine learning-based systems, we engage with how the term is framed and constructed in self-education resources. For this, we analyze machine learning tutorials, an important information source for self-learners and a key tool for the formation of the practices of the machine learning community. Our analysis identifies canonical examples of machine learning as well as important misconceptions and problematic framings. Our results show that machine learning is presented as being universally applicable and that the application of machine learning without special expertise is actively encouraged. Explanations of machine learning algorithms are missing or strongly limited. Meanwhile, the importance of data is vastly understated. This has implications for the manifestation of (new) social inequalities through machine learning-based systems.

Chapter in edited volume: Socio-Gerontechnology

TITLE HEREThe interdisciplinary Socio-Gerontechnology Network attends to questions of the use and design of gerontechnologies from a critical social science and design perspective. The network has now published its first edited volume: Socio-gerontechnology – Interdisciplinary Critical Studies of Ageing and Technology, which brings together perspectives from ageing studies and science and technology studies. I am have contributed a contribution with Andreas Bischof (Technical University of Chemnitz) which is entitled: Configuring the older adult – How age and ageing are re-configured in gerontechnology design. The chapter will be available open access in due course.

Chapter abstract: Later life has become one of the most prominent topics for the design and development of digital technologies, resulting in the creation of a large body of prototypes and products (gerontechnologies). However, the majority of these efforts suffer from a lack of empirical grounding of their imaginaries of ageing and later life while also failing to involve older adults in design processes in meaningful ways. This chapter reviews how age and ageing can be configured across different instances of the development and deployment of digital technologies. We understand such design processes as configuration practices that co-construct older users and later life. By using the concept of re-con-figuration, we critically reflect about conceptual, ethical and pragmatic challenges of involving older people in design processes.

Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences

978-3-030-61728-8The Sociolog of the Sciences Yearbook is now online and Open Access. It’s editors Karen Kastenhofer and Susan Molyneux-Hodgson have assembled an interesting collection of 13 contributions across a wide range of technosciences.

My contribution looks at ways in which the concept of “communities of practice” has been appropriated and argues that objects such as templates are not simply a means to share practices in digital communities but rather a means for enacting membership.

New book: Co-creating Digital Public Services for an Ageing Society

coverMy new book is out & open access. It reviews stereotypical (mis-)conceptions about old age & technology (design), and proposes a methodology for more inclusive and participatory public sector innovation: Co-creation.

Here comes a short summary of each of the chapters.

Introduction: There is an articulated need to engage older citizens in the design of digital services, but a lack of evidence concerning successful participation approaches. This book addresses this gap by reporting from three co-creation projects with older adults conducted as part of the EU-funded MobileAge project.

The 2nd chapter reviews dominant discourses about ageing societies and technological innovation. It argues that engaging older adults in design processes can reconfigure how and which imaginaries of old age and “successful ageing” are being scripted into technologies.

The 3rd chapter reviews key literature and concepts relating to the co-creation of digital public services: (1) Co-production of public services, (2) CoDesign and (3) civic open data use. It considers what kind of e-services may be suitable for co-creation.

The 4th chapter introduces MobileAge, the project upon which the book is based. It presents the project’s framework and methodology along seven streams of activity. A canvas describes the co-creation processes and outputs (e.g. with respect to sustainability & maintanance).

The 5th chapter reports on a project in the city district Bremen Osterholz in which a core group of 11 older residents co-created a digital district guide. The chapter describes co-creation methods such as cultural probes and data tables. It concludes with lessons learned.

The 6th chapter reports on a project in the city district Bremen Hemelingen. Co-creators defined design requirements and created content for a digital walking guide. The chapter describes different kinds of walking methods such as ideation walks, data walks and user test walks.

The 7th chapter reports on a project in Zaragoza that was facilitated by Zaragoza city council. The focus was on the improvement of an age-friendly city infrastructure. The result is an enhanced map service, which allows (older) citizens to report problems and/or propose improvements

The 8th chapter presents nine learning points from the three co-creation projects. It considers to what extent the openness of a co-creation process impacts on the sustainability of its results and the ways in which co-creation contributes to joint socio-technical future-making.

The final chapter concludes that co-creation processes are highly contingent and dependent on several factors. The learning points identified provide evidence on ways to co-create better, more user-centric public services with and for older adults.

Artificial Intelligence and Discrimination

Roland Becker (CEO & founder of JustAddAI) and Dr. Sirko Straube (German Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence – DFKI) invited me to the fourth episode of their podcast Think Reactor to discuss the discriminatory potential of Artificial Intelligence as well as the social and ethical challenges of digital innovation. Other topics they’ve covered so far are: What is AI (episode 1), AI in everyday life (episode 2) and How safe is AI (episode 3). The podcast provides a good introduction to a topic that affects us all in many different ways and also plays an increasingly important role in STS research.

*the podcast is in German.


Considering more-than-human participation in co-design with older adults: Implications for a material gerontology

Yesterday the first online symposium of the international network on Socio-Gerontechnology took place with more than 100 participants*. The network brings together researchers from different social science and design disciplines who are interested in critical studies of age(ing) and technology. Disciplines include public health, gerontology, sociology, science and technology studies (STS), design research and socio-informatics. Common to the scientists is an interest in the increasing digitalisation of our lives and its effects on the lives of older people, but also our image of age(ing) and the resulting (socio-)political dynamics.

Together with Helen Manchester (University of Bristol) I gave a talk entitled “Considering more-than-human participation in co-design with older adults: Implications for a material gerontology”. In this paper we argue that many gerontechnologies understand age as a problem that requires a technical solution. A good example is the recent article in the New York Times on monitoring technologies that allow children to “keep an eye” on their elderly parents in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The problem of quarantine is presented as a “matter of fact” that needs to be solved. In our talk, we argue that design should not be understood as problem-solving, but rather as joint problem-making. With this different focus, new actors in design processes emerge and need to be involved. Design is moving from a focus on “Matters of Facts” to a practice that is concerned with “Matters of Care”.

All contributions and a recording of the event will soon be published on the network’s website.


Sozialverantwortliche Technikgestaltung und Partizipation

Der September stand für mich unter der Überschrift “Sozialverantwortliche Technikgestaltung und Partizipation”. Zunächst habe ich auf der Mensch und Computer in Hamburg am 8. September am Workshop “Partizipative & sozialverantwortliche Technikentwicklung” teilgenommen und ein Positionspapier zu “Co-creating digital citizenship: Considering the reconfiguration of participation in digital public service design” vorgestellt. Im Workshop trafen sich Wissenschaftler*innen aus ganz Deutschland und diskutierten über die Potenziale und Grenzen des Partizipativen Designs. Anschließend wurde entschieden, dass wir in der Gesellschaft für Informatik eine neue Fachgruppe zu Partizipation gründen möchten. Sie soll einen Raum schaffen, in dem Informatiker*innen sich über (neue) Herausforderungen und Chancen von Partizipation austauschen sowie Konzepte und Methoden weiterentwickeln können.

Am 25. September stellte ich bei der Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Informatik in Kassel einen Beitrag im Track: “Socio-technical Design and Value Orientation” vor. Der gemeinsame Beitrag von Ulrike Gerhard, Herbert Kubicek und mir fasst die Herausforderungen und Chancen der Technikgestaltung mit älteren Menschen zusammen. Er ist in den Lecture Notes in Informatics zu finden.

Schließlich habe ich am 26. September bei der DigitalisierungsConvention einen der beiden Impulsvorträge unter dem Titel: “Paradoxon Künstliche Intelligenz: Chancen und Risiken einer digitalen Gesellschaft gehalten”. Der zweite Impulsvortrag wurde von Roland Becker, Geschäftsführer der Just Add AI GmbH und Initiator von BREMEN.AI gegeben. Die Teilnehmer*innen der DigitalisierungsConvention waren ein bunter Mix aus Vertreter*innen der Wirtschaft, Verwaltung und Wissenschaft. Senatorin Kristina Vogt hielt ein Grußwort, gefolgt von Björn Portillo (bremen digialmedia) und Daniel Schneider (Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentrum Bremen). In meinem Vortrag bin ich darauf eingegangen, warum es wichtig ist zu verstehen, dass Technik Mittel zur Strukturierung sozialer Ordnung ist und Technikgestaltung immer ein sozialer Aushandlungsprozess. Eine gemeinwohlorientierte Gestaltung unserer Zukunft, bedarf daher der menschzentrierten und partizipativen Technikgestaltung.


20190926_Digitalisierungs-Convention (84)

20190926_Digitalisierungs-Convention (81)

3rd Data Power Conference

On September 12 and 13, the third international Data Power Conference took place in Bremen. A total of 170 people from 37 countries took part. More than 120 studies were presented in 34 sessions. The participants came from disciplines as diverse as media and communication studies, geography, sociology, law and computer science. They are united by their interest in critical data studies when researching phenomena such as the increasing quantification of social life, in which data-driven decision-making and governance aspects play an increasingly important role. The aim of the conference was to discuss and reflect upon data power in a global perspective. The keynote speakers of the conference contributed their experiences from China (Jack Linchuan Qiu), India (Nimmi Rangaswamy) and USA (Seeta Peña Gangadharan).

I was involved in the organising committee (which consisted of members of the Universities of Bremen, Sheffield and Carleton). In addition, I presented my joint research with Hendrik Heuer under the title: “The Public Availability of #MachineLearning and its Harmful Secondary Effects”. The next Data Power conference will take place in two years, the location has not yet been decided. Next summer we will publish an edited, open access book with Palgrave featuring some of the most interesting papers of the conference.


04 05

Fotos: Beate C. Koehler

Am vergangenen Freitag war ich in Berlin zu einem Workshop des Deutschen Internet Instituts (Weizenbaum Institut) auf dem sich die Teilnehmenden die “demokratische Frage” neu stellen wollten. Anwesend waren neben Wissenschaftler*innen aus unterschiedlichen Disziplinen, Vertreter*innen von zehn zivilgesellschaftlichen Organisationen, die durch den Einsatz von Technologie demokratische Prozesse stärken und politisches Handeln transparenter machen wollen (civic tech). Zu den teilnehmenden Civic Tech Akteuren gehörten u.a.

  • Liquid Democracy, möchte demokratische Prozesse durch digitale Applikationen partizipativer, transparenter und egalitärer gestalten. Beispiele für ihre Arbeit sind u.a. die Bürger*innenbeteiligungsplattform meinBerlin oder das Debattenportal der SPD.
  • wepublic ist eine Initiative, die den Dialog mit politischen Parteien stärken möchte und neue Kommunikationswege eröffnet.
  • Kleiner Fünf positioniert sich gegen rechtspopulistische Akteure und möchte deren Wahlergebnisse unter der Fünfprozenthürde halten.
  • FragDenStaat unterstützt Bürger*innen bei dem Zugriff auf staatliche Dokumente und Akten.

In drei parallelen Sessions wurde zu den Themen Deliberation und Partizipation, Populismus und Informierte Öffentlichkeit diskutiert und reflektiert. Zum Beispiel wurde gefragt, wie transparent solche Initiativen wirklich sind und ob nicht lediglich, die Bürger*innen solche Angebote nutzen, die sich auch anderweitig informieren können und an Beteiligungsverfahren teilnehmen. Für das ifib habe ich unsere Erfahrungen im Bereich Bürger*innenbeteiligung und partizipativer Technikentwicklung von digitalen öffentlichen Dienstleistungen beigetragen.