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.


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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.


Special Issue on Datafication of Education

Andreas Breiter and I edited a special issue on the datafication in education. It appeared in the journal Learning, Media and Technology. The special issue sheds light on the dynamics of datafication and related transformation of education. Contributions consider data practices that span across different countries, educational fields and governance levels from early childhood education (Bradbury), to schools (Ratner et al; Manolev et al), universities (Jones & McCoy), educational technology providers (Macgilchrist) to educational policy making and governance (Williamson & Piattoeva).

In sum, digital data allow for the analysis of different educational practices to a degree of complexity not previously possible and to a much greater extent, as they can be very detailed, cover a more complete scope and can be flexibly combined. This is increasingly happening in real time due to the power of computers and algorithms. In the near future, sensors will provide further data. As such digital data not only serve to support decisions, but also fundamentally change the organisation of learning and teaching. Thus, digital data not only support decision-making (“data-driven decision making”), but also fundamentally change the organisation of learning and teaching. These transformation processes lead to partly ambivalent consequences, such as new possibilities for participation, but also the monitoring and emergence/manifestation of inequalities.

The editorial can be accessed here, an overview on all contributions here.


Event at the European Parliament

As part of the final activities of the EU-Project Mobile, I attended a meeting of two working groups of Members of the European Parliament last week. The aim of the two-hour event was to exchange views on the opportunities and challenges of co-creation approaches to the development of digital services in age-friendly cities and communities. In particular, we presented our learnings and policy recommendations. To the event entitled: “The future of Europe is co-created. Digital public services for age-friendly cities and communities” was hosted by the Intergroup on Active Ageing, Intergenerational Solidarity and Family issues and the Urban Intergroup. More than 40 representatives* from the European Parliament, the European Commission, national and regional representations in Brussels as well as from other EU and participation projects took part in the events.

Increasingly, public services are provided digitally, but their use is still low. In the recent Ministerial Declaration (EU Tallinn 2017), EU Member States recognised that “more needs to be done” to provide digital public services close to citizens. Part of the challenge is that administrations lack the tools and experience to involve citizens in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of digital services. As part of our Mobile Age project, we have developed and evaluated co-creation methods with older people, administrations, social service providers and researchers. In addition, a number of practical and accessible mobile applications were developed at pilot sites throughout Europe (Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and Thessaloniki). For Bremen you can find these applications for the districts Osterholz and Hemelingen on Bremen.De. In my presentation I highlighted the role of local and regional actors in the participatory development of digital services.

Parliamentarians Lambert van Nistelrooij and Jan Olbrycht moderated the following short contributions:

  • Kieran McCarthy, European Committee of the Regions and Cork City Council: Creating a society for digital change and innovation
  • Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: The Mobile-Age approach for senior-friendly digital public services
  • Konstantinos Kapsouropoulos, European Commission, DG Connect: European policies for age-friendly environments
  • Juliane Jarke, Institute for Information Management, University of Bremen: Participatory digital service design and e-Inclusion
  • Susanna Laurin, CEO Funka, Stockholm: Practical implementation of tools for citizen involvement – A Norwegian government’s study
  • Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: Accessible digital services for older people
  • Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader of South Lakeland District Council: Connecting older adults to technological public services

Here you may find the presentation slides. A summary report of the event is published here.


European Week of Regions and Cities

Last Tuesday I  had the opportunity to present MobileAge results during the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels. The four-day event was attended by around 6000 participants and 600 speakers from all over Europe.

MobileAge was part of a session organised by the European Commission/REA on co-production and co-creation of digital services. Together with two other EU projects, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of co-creation approaches with around 80 participants. After a short introduction to the projects, we worked in three smaller, rotating working groups on the topics of sustainability, governance and citizen involvement.

A short video of the organizers about MobileAge summarizes our results.

Probes as Participatory Design Practice

I afront coverm delighted to announce that the Special Issue on Probes as Participatory Design Practice which I co-edited with Susanne Maaß has been published. The special issue is interested in some of the fundamental questions of participatory design: How future users can be involved in design processes in meaningful, empowering and creative ways. The particular focus is on the ways in which (cultural) probes may serve this purpose and can be understood as participatory design practice. The concept of cultural probes was developed by Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti (1999) to collect ideas for creative design solutions from prospective users: A set of materials and questions stimulate users to observe, document, reflect and comment on their own everyday life over a certain period. Examples for such probes are diaries, cameras, postcards or maps. As a means of writing ethnographic self-description and self-disclosure and in combination with interviews or group discussions, they allow to communicate insights into everyday processes and structures, which are difficult to observe or investigate otherwise. Since their first introduction, cultural probes have enjoyed increasing interest in the field of human-centred or user-oriented software design. The concept has been amended to include concepts such as “design probes” (Mattelmäki, 2006), “technology probes” (Hutchinson et al., 2003) or “mobile probes” (Hulkko, Mattelmäki, Virtanen, & Keinonen, 2004) amongst others.


All iscreenshotn all, the special issue features five papers that analyse and discuss the use of probes in participatory design contexts, how users may be involved and empowered to design, contest, interpret and reflect on probes; how probes may inform a participatory design process. My colleague Ulrike Gerhard and I have contributed one paper on the use of probes in sharing (tacit) knowing between designers and participants/users and amongst participating users. The paper is based on our research and innovation project MobileAge and is available as open access.


Article on data transparency and environmental activism

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Map showing deforestation patterns, main roads, and protected areas in the Amazon. Source: IBAMA, PRODES/INPE, and IBGE 2010

Yesterday my paper with Prof. Raoni Rajao (UFMG, Brazil) was published at the Journal for Social Movement Studies. The article examines the relation between data transparency and environmental activism in the Amazon rainforest. For this purpose, we analyze the history of PRODES and DETER, two satellite-based monitoring systems developed by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE). We discuss its role in environmental activism and the formulation of policy toward the Amazon over the last three decades. Based on this analysis, we argue that the level of aggregation (e.g. regional figures vs. individual events) and temporality (e.g. yearly consolidations vs. near real-time releases) of open data configure different ways of performing environmental activism. Aggregated figures tend to have wider policy significance due to their simplicity and scale, yet allow very little room for reinterpretation, contribution from environmental activists, and direct use in policy implementation. Disaggregated data, while allowing more forms of (unexpected) reinterpretations and additions via the overlay of different data-sets, also require the intervention of environmental activists and other info-mediators in order to acquire meaning for the broader public. Similarly, while consolidated data-sets have the advantage of allowing more time for the creation of higher quality data, they are often published at a point in the policy-making cycle in which the negative effects of current choices are irreversible. At the same time, while more frequent data releases may lead to more responsive policies, they also place governmental agencies in a more vulnerable position since near real-time data are more prone to contain errors. Based on these considerations we conclude that monitoring data do not simply represent deforestation in the Amazon. Instead, different publics and data configurations (i.e. spatial and temporal aggregation levels) produce different objects (e.g. a threatened Amazon, a successful policy) and subjects (e.g. knowledgeable environmental activists, an unresponsive government).

You may find the full article here.

The research was supported by the University of Bremen and the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI).

Themenessay zu Digitalisierung und Gesellschaft

Vorige Woche ist mein Themenessay zu „Digitalisierung und Gesellschaft“  in der Soziologischen Revue erschienen. Im Themenessay gehe ich auf die grundlegenden Herausforderungen der Erforschung dieses Phänomens ein – einer Soziologie des Digitalen. Hierzu habe ich vier neuere Publikationen  in diesem Themenfeld besprochen, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede in der wissenschaftlichen Debatte herausgearbeitet (siehe unten).

Inhaltlich argumentiere ich, dass die zunehmende Digitalisierung in dreifacher Hinsicht relevant und interessant ist: (1) als Forschungsobjekt – die digitale Gesellschaft, (2) durch die Entwicklung neuer Forschungsmethoden – digitale Methoden und (3) durch neue Plattformen für die Kommunikation von sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschungsergebnissen (siehe auch Marres, 2017).

Eine wichtige Aufgabe einer kritischen Soziologie des Digitalen ist es aufzudecken, wie sich Gesellschaft durch Digitalisierung verändert. Alle vorgestellten Bücher demonstrieren die Relevanz einer Soziologie des Digitalen, die verschiedenste Disziplinen zusammenbringt und stark empirisch ausgerichtet ist, denn traditionelle soziologische Fragen stellen sich im Verlauf des digitalen Transformationsprozesses neu.

Im Themenessay werden folgende Bücher besprochen:

Jessie Daniels / Karen Gregory / Tressie McMillan Cottom (Eds.), Digital Sociologies. Bristol, UK: Policy Press 2017.

Noortje Marres, Digital Sociology. The Reinvention of Social Research. Malden, MA: Polity 2017.

Roberto Simanowski, Facebook-Gesellschaft. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2016.

Florian Süssenguth (Hrsg.), Die Gesellschaft der Daten. Über die digitale Transformation der sozialen Ordnung. Bielefeld: transcript 2015.

Ein Tisch auf Wanderschaft

Im Rahmen des MobileAge Projekts haben wir in den vergangenen Monaten einen digitalen Stadtteilführer für ältere Menschen in Bremen Osterholz entwickelt und umgesetzt. Dies haben wir und das Forschungsinstitut Technologie und Behinderung der evang. Stiftung Volmarstein gemeinsam mit älteren Menschen aus Osterholz und lokalen Akteuren wie etwa den Quartiersmanagern, dem Ortsamtsleiter, verschiedenen Organisationen (z.B. BORIS, Geschichtswerkstatt, Mütterzentrum) getan. Ein erster Prototyp ist seit einigen Wochen online und wir sammeln Feedback sowohl zum Design als auch der Korrektheit der bereitgestellten Informationen. Um den Stadtteilführer im Stadtteil bekannt zu machen, aber auch Menschen, die keine digitale Geräten besitzen, den Zugang zu ermöglichen, werden wir in den kommenden Wochen verschiedenen Osterholzer Einrichtungen unseren Multi-Touch-Table leihweise zur Verfügung stellen. Begonnen haben wir heute im Café Blocksberg (Blockdieck), in sechs Wochen wird der Tisch dann ins Café Gabriely (Tenever) umziehen. Danach folgen Standorte in den anderen Ortsteilen (Schweizer Viertel, Osterholz, Ellener Feld).

Wir sind auf die Rückmeldungen der Nutzerinnen und Nutzer gespannt, und hoffen, dass viele ältere Osterholzer Interesse haben.

Den Prototypen kann man auch hier besuchen: www.bremen.de/osterholz/senioren

Eine unserer Teilnehmerinnen hat uns bei der Erstellung eines kurzen Erklärvideos unterstützt und führt in die Nutzung des Stadtteilführers ein.

Vorstellung- Digitaler Stadtteilführer für ältere Menschen in Osterholz from MobileAge on Vimeo.