New Publication on Dashboard Stories in Big Data & Society

bds-2Data dashboards do not only visualise facts, they also produce compelling narratives.

In our paper, Felicitas Macgilchrist and I trace the stories told by dashboards of AI-powered learning analytics and discuss the implications for educational futures and edtech

With narrative we do not only mean fiction. Narrative refers to a mode of presentation in which a sequence of actions or events unfold over time, involving one or more characters, often involving change.

We analysed one of the leadinglearning management systems which offers adaptive learning tools and predictive analytics for premium clients. The system integrates far more real-time data than early warning systems in education have ever done. We identified 3 stories:

In the first, teachers are managers who oversee, design interventions, check the effects of their interventions, improve efficiency and effectiveness. The multiple further roles of teachers are rendered invisible and thus irrelevant to this particular understanding of education.

The second story is about risk. In the materials, we see red colours flagging a student in trouble. We see him beginning to struggle, as his “success index” decreases over the weeks. The dashboard shows him as the most at risk and in need for intervention.

The third is about sociality: it is risky, the dashboard tells users, for a student to be insufficiently socially integrated and connected. Those students are portrayed as ‘successful’ characters in the dashboard story who maximise their in-tech interactions with others.

As educational and other fields are increasingly embracing predictive tools, it is crucial to examine these systems and their narratives, to highlight how they are harmful, and to consider if and how they are being used beyond the current limited and limiting recommendations.

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.

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.

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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.

 

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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

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.

Kick-off for MobileAge activities in Bremen

We kicked-off our co-creation activities in one of Bremen’s most diverse districts: Osterholz. Last Wednesday, 8 June 2016, we conducted the first workshop with 12 interested participants in a meeting room of the district’s administration office. The participants were recruited with support of a local project team at an information event that took place two weeks earlier, through ifib’s participation at a neighbourhood festival and articles in the local newspaper as well as personal communication. The goal of ifib’s co-creation activities in Osterholz is to jointly design and develop a mobile public service application for senior citizens that facilitates social inclusion.

After presenting the project and the team, the participants were asked to introduce themselves. Most participants emphasised their close connection to the district and were looking forward to learning more about it. They bring together a great and complementary mix of expertise and knowledge with respect to knowledge about the district, experience and use of mobile technologies and technology development as well as engagement in voluntary work. They all share an interest in creating something together that might be helpful and interesting for themselves, other seniors and their district

The workshop’s main engagement activity was the validation of a customised quartets (card game) about Osterholz. During the information event, our project team had asked participants to complete questions concerning places of interest, information needs and other topics regarding the district such as “What do I like about the district?”, “Where do I go with visitors?”, “What is missing in Osterholz”. At the kick-off workshop we discussed the contents and complemented them while having coffee and cake. This was a first activity to jointly develop an understanding of the potential diversity of information needs of senior citizens as well as an appreciation for the knowledge and experience that the co-creators bring to the project.

At the end of the workshop cultural probes were handed out to the participants. Cultural probes are hand-made research materials that help participants to self-document their everyday activities regarding certain topics. In case of the Mobile Age project we are especially interested in the participant’s relation to their district, their social networks, their information needs as well as their technology and media experiences and use. The participants examined the cultural probes bag and its contents with curiosity and said they were looking forward to engaging with the material.

We will be meeting again with our participants in ten days to collect the cultural probes. After analysing the materials, single interviews will be conducted with the participants in order to discuss the probes and to gain deeper understanding of their content. We feel excited that thanks to the local support we are able to start their fieldwork with so many interested and motivated participants and are looking forward to the future co-creation process.

EU project on co-created personalised mobile access to public services for senior citizens

2016-02-10 12.35.03 I am very excited to announce that we have been selected by the European Commission for a 3-year research and innovation action. The MobileAge project started in February 2016 and will focus on open government data, mobile technology, and the provision of public services in relation to Europe’s elderly population. Europe’s senior citizens are growing steadily and are predicted to comprise of 28% of Europe’s population by 2020. However, senior citizens do not normally share the same level of connectivity to the Internet as younger generations, and while government agencies are increasingly providing their services through digital platforms, this risks excluding senior citizens from the design and use of such services.

Mobile Age will provide the basis for the development of mobile-based open government services focused on senior citizens. We follow a co-creation methodological approach that will allow for a substantive participation of senior citizens. MobileAge will focus on the co-creation of services related to the production and use of open data for cities. This will be achieved by pursuing four objectives:

i) exploring and implementing innovative ways to support senior citizens to access and use public services through personal mobile technologies that are based on open government data,
ii) develop and deploy co-creation approaches and methodologies to engage senior citizens effectively;
iii) develop a situated, practice-based understanding of accessibility, mobility and usability of services from a senior-citizen point of view; and
iv) develop a framework for impact assessment and evaluation for co-creation approaches to open service development for the ageing population.

Mobile Age’s approach will be applied in cities and counties that are already providing innovative approaches for the participation of senior people in the development of city services: Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and the Region of Central Macedonia, with scenarios related to social inclusion, extending independent living, data curation for a safer and more accessible city, and the management of personal health information.

My role will be to lead a work package on Participatory Design in Civic Tech and Open Data, and I am very much looking forward to this challenging project.