Online Talk: “Did you give permission? Datafication in the Mobile Ecosystem” at médialab, Sciences Po

Department of Digital Humanities researchers Jennifer Pybus and Mark Coté will present new work from their recent AHRC-funded cross-disciplinary project on the technical objects of datafication within mobile devices.

Their online talk – “Did you give permission? Datafication in the Mobile Ecosystem” – will take place on the afternoon of 1st December 2020 and is hosted by the médialab, Sciences Po in Paris in partnership with the Centre Internet et Société (CIS).

You can find full details and register here. The abstract is as follows:

“We will present our recent AHRC-funded cross-disciplinary research on the technical objects of datafication within mobile devices. Our talk will be in two parts.

First, we will outline the philosophical foundations of the finely-granulated perspective that frames our research. We will discuss how our method which has been informed by the ancient atomists Epicurus and Lucretius and the re-articulation by Deleuze and Simondon of this model, in which all is ‘atoms, void, and clinamen. While this conceptual paradigm is often applied to control theory or cybernetics, we contend it offers more relevant insights when applied to contemporary datafication.

Second, we will present our cross-disciplinary method, which enables non-expert engagement with the technical dimensions of mobile apps. We contend that the mobile is enabling a more mature phase of datafication, which necessitates examining the relationality between mobile permissions and embedded, third party services known as SDKs (software development kits). We created an interactive platform enabling humanities and social science researchers to access the data permissions and SDKs of more than 7,000 apps, and to analyse the increasingly dominant role of Google and Facebook. We see this cross-disciplinary focus provides a more rigorous material grounding for a critical analysis of the socio-cultural and political economic effects of mobile actors expanding and extending personal data economies.”

New article: “Personal metrics: Users’ experiences and perceptions of self-tracking practices and data”

Dr Btihaj Ajana, Reader in Media and Digital Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities, has recently published a research article entitled, “Personal metrics: Users’ experiences and perceptions of self-tracking practices and data” in Social Science Information journal.

Full article can be accessed on: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0539018420959522#articleShareContainer

Abstract:

Self-tracking is becoming a prominent and ubiquitous feature in contemporary practices of health and wellness management. Over the last few years, we have witnessed a rapid development in digital tracking devices, apps and platforms, together with the emergence of health movements such as the Quantified Self. As the world is becoming increasingly ruled by metrics and data, we are becoming ever more reliant on technologies of tracking and measurement to manage and evaluate various spheres of our lives including w ork, leisure, performance, and health. In this article, I begin by briefly outlining some of the key theoretical approaches that have been informing the scholarly debates on the rise of self-tracking. I then move on to discuss at length the findings of an international survey study I conducted with users of self-tracking technologies to discuss the ways in which they perceive and experience these practices, and the various rationales behind their adoption of self-tracking in the first place. The article also addresses participants’ attitudes towards issues of privacy and data sharing and protection. These attitudes seem to be dominated by a lack of concern regarding the use and sharing of self-tracking data with third parties. Some of the overarching sentiments vis-à-vis these issues can be roughly categorized according to feelings of ‘trust’ towards companies and how they handle data, a sense of ‘resignation’ in the face of what is perceived as an all-encompassing and ubiquitous data use, feelings of ‘self-insignificance’ which translates into the belief that one’s data is of no value to others, and the familiar expression of ‘the innocent have nothing to hide’. Overall, this article highlights the benefits and risks of self-tracking practices as experienced and articulated by the participants, while providing a critical reflection on the rise of personal metrics and the culture of measurement and quantification.

New Article: “Data/infrastructure in the Smart City” in Big Data & Society Journal

Dr Güneş Tavmen, ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Digital Humanities, has recently published a research article entitled “Data/infrastructure in the smart city: Understanding the infrastructural power of Citymapper app through technicity of data” in Big Data & Society journal. In this article, Tavmen explores the infrastructural implications of a transport app, Citymapper, that is built on open data in London.

Citymapper screen captureTo do that, she studies the relation between data and infrastructure in a processual way in the urban context and argues that they are co-generated in a dyadic way. Subsequently, through this relationship, Tavmen explores how Citymapper app modulates the urban infrastructure through its data power while also transforming its users into environmental sensing nodes.

This article is produced as part of Tavmen’s postdoctoral fellowship which she started in October 2019 at the Department of Digital Humanities, funded by ESRC. During her time at the department, she worked to disseminate and create impact from her doctoral research that looked into open data discourses and applications within smart city planning in London. Currently, she is working on a research project to study how mobile apps, and the data generated by these, modulate social, material, and technical infrastructure in data-driven cities.

New Article: 📝✨ “The Pandemic Crowd: Protest in the Time of COVID-19” in Journal of International Affairs

Dr Paolo Gerbaudo, Reader in Digital Culture and Society at the Department of Digital Humanities and Director of the Centre for Digital Culture, has just published an article on “The Pandemic Crowd: Protest in the Time of COVID-19” in Journal of International Affairs. The abstract is copied below.

From collective flash-mobs such as “clap for our carers,” to solidarity campaigns launched by a variety of activist organizations, to the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-lockdown protests by right-wing groups, the COVID-19 crisis has been marked by intense social protest. In this article, I analyze these protests as different responses to the exceptional conjuncture of the pandemic, through the lens of social movement theory and the analysis of grievances and action repertoires. Focusing on the United States and Europe, I highlight that protests during the pandemic reveal the nature of the COVID-19 emergency as a moment of political suspension and heightened social confrontation. Different movements respond to the COVID-19 health crisis either by navigating the straits between voicing dissent and abiding by health rules while demanding a return to pre–COVID-19 normality, or by seeing the disruption of the pandemic as an opportunity to seek redress for deep-seated problems. Regardless of their differences, pandemic protests point to the return of a crowd element and impromptu and spontaneous forms of action through tactics such as sit-ins, banging pot protests, the occupation of building, the toppling of statues symbolizing the enemy, or the foiling of anti-contagion rules. This return to pre-modern protest logics highlights the depth of the crisis of authority revealed by COVID-19, during which inequalities have further intensified.

Metro covers Rachael Kent’s research on lockdown work practices

Research by DDH Lecturer Dr Rachael Kent has been featured in a Metro article on lockdown working practices. You can read the full article here. This follows on from another Metro piece last month and draws on research which has been written up in an article in Social Media & Society.

Dr Rachael Kent is a lecturer in Digital Economy & Society Education at King’s College London. She says her research into the effects of lockdown one revealed that business owners and their staff felt huge pressure to be extra productive during lockdown, with many people feeling they had to ‘make the most’ of extra time afforded to them – because they weren’t commuting – to do more work and to be more productive in their hobbies, too.

‘This is a real challenge, as actually people didn’t have more time and it made them unhappy,’ she says. ‘Against the backdrop of stress caused by pandemic anxiety and seasonal hibernation it will be tough for people to do anything. It’s really important that business owners don’t push staff to see lockdown as a time to do extra things.’

Instead, Dr Kent (@drdigi_health) suggests that business owners and their staff commit to being more intentional about their phone use (‘don’t pick it up just to scroll through it’) and to set clear boundaries about work/non-work time.

Creative AI Lab – ‘Aesthetics of New AI’ panel discussion for Frieze Week 2020

What new aspects does the technical framework of machine learning bring to art-making? And conversely, what can artworks that use AI point to in AI research and development? These questions formed the basis for discussion during an online panel event, convened by the Creative AI Lab in collaboration with the NYU Digital Theory H-Lab for Frieze Week 2020, with Leif Weatherby, Nora Khan, Joanna Zylinska and Murad Khan. The full event can be viewed as a video here.

The Creative AI Lab is a collaboration between the R&D Platform at Serpentine Galleries and King’s College London’s Department of Digital Humanities. It follows the premise that collectively, we are at the early stages of understanding the aesthetics of ‘AI’: locating a new poetics, investigating what it means to work with systems that are able to calculate meaning, and practicing art-making in the so-called ‘black box’ of machine learning. This panel formed part of an ongoing and collaborative investigation into AI aesthetics, one of multiple lines of inquiry explored by the Lab. The event was hosted by the Lab’s principal investigators Dr Mercedes Bunz, Senior Lecturer in Digital Society, KCL, and Eva Jäger, Assistant Curator of Arts Technologies, Serpentine. A reader of the panellists’ work accompanied the event –– it can be downloaded from the Serpentine’s website. As Eva Jäger outlined, ‘the Lab holds space for this work, convening diverse conversations, like this one, and compiling a database of tools and resources. The lab also produces knowledge and approaches to digesting and communicating this media through experimental research projects’.

‘It’s not just a black box, It’s at least grey. When you open that up you start to see things that have either aesthetic value, critical value, or both’. This initial provocation from Leif Weatherby (NYU Digital Theory H-Lab) aligned with the impetus for such practices outlined by Mercedes Bunz: that ‘we need to reflect on the societal impact of this technology critically, but also on its creative capacity – art is offering a space for the creative and playful exploration of this technology’.

The panel responded to these considerations alongside a tele-present audience through presentation and discussion. A range of divergent approaches emerged for understanding the reciprocal relationship between AI and artistic research, encompassing philosophical, art historical and conceptual-technological approaches. In particular, two often overlapping modes of practice: working with machine learning to develop a distinctive machinic aesthetics through the generation and display of ‘front-end’ imagery, and works which foreground conceptual exploration, revealing ‘back-end’ processes and mechanisms.

Joanna Zylinska, Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London focused on the possibility that a shift in trajectory is required in AI art research, away from the binary view of humanity and technology. Critically questioning the motivations behind AI art production and its market, which in her view often reproduces persistent and ‘seductive’ human notions of creativity, she posited the possibility that contemporary machine learning practices should in fact tend towards a different “AI” – art for ‘another intelligence’, exemplified by Katja Novitskova’s work Pattern of Activation (2020).

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Job: AEP Lecturer in Humanistic and Social Computing

The Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London is looking for one AEP Lecturer in Humanistic and Social Computing to help us grow our teaching expertise in critical HCI, user centered research and sustainable design from a humanities and social sciences perspective.

The ideal candidate will have a PhD in a relevant discipline, an excellent understanding of HCI, user research and critical design from a humanistic perspective, the ability to teach existing modules in this area and develop new ones, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

A developing track record of research and publications in the area of humanistic and social computing will be particularly welcome. This is a FTE position.

You can find more details and apply (by 6th December 2020) here.

Fulbright scholarship awarded to Digital Humanities PhD student

Stephanie Grimes will be joining the Department of Digital Humanities as part of the flagship international exchange programme to advance research into technology and cultural heritage.

Congratulations to Stephanie Grimes, a PhD student who recently joined the Department of Digital Humanities, and has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to further her research into technology and its influence on public reception to ancient Roman art.

The Fulbright Scholarship is awarded to American and British students to deepen public knowledge, promote civic engagement, and develop leaders through education exchange programmes between students of the US and UK.

Stephanie will be supervised by Dr Stuart Dunn, Head of the Department of Digital Humanities, and will be using her time at King’s to take an interdisciplinary approach to her research. She will use art history, museum studies, archaeology, and technology methods to gain a comprehensive understanding about how innovations shape the way people relate to the past.

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Data Stories Symposium, 26-27th November 2020

The Department of Digital Humanities is pleased to be involved in co-organising the DataStories Symposium 2020 which will explore how people engage with data to create stories.

Data is represented in different ways to allow us to understand and make use of it: in numbers, in text, in visualisations, in interactive stories and other forms. Data stories are relevant to many areas of our life – they are part of the news, of how we engage with science and research, they inform our decisions and they help us explain the world.

We are getting more and more aware that data should excite as well as inform and be engaging as well as educating. Data should be presented in a manner that allows different perspectives and supports us in understanding the uncertainties attached to it.

The DataStories Symposium 2020 will bring together experts from academia, industry and the third sector to discuss, generate ideas and inspire future interdisciplinary collaborations aiming to explore Human Data Interaction in relation to storytelling with data.

Contributors and guests include: researchers, data journalists, data artists, computer scientists, curators, game designers, amongst others.

We will have three exciting keynote speakers, interactive sessions and lightning talks to showcase ongoing work and to discuss current challenges around datastories. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Experiencing data through storytelling, art and games
  • Narrative practices for data stories
  • Data representations: narrative visualisations and other forms
  • Human Data Interaction
  • Making sense of data and uncertainty
  • Transparent reporting in data journalism

Currently confirmed speakers include: Anna Feigenbaum (Bournemouth University)Andrew Tatem (University of Southampton, Director of WorldPop and Flowminder), Benjamin Bach (University of Edinburgh)David Caswell (BBC News Labs)Phil Harvey (Microsoft)Caelainn Barr (The Guardian)Michele Mauri (DENSITYDESIGN LAB)Kathleen Gregory (DANS)Tom Blount (University of Southampton)Nick Holliman (Newcastle University)Marc Streit (Johannes Kepler University Linz)Stefanie Posavec.

We will have three keynote speakers, interactive workshops, live sketching, and a number of lightning talks to showcase ongoing work and to discuss current challenges around data stories. 

You can find out more at datastories.co.uk/symposium/  and register for free here.

New Book: “Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access” (MIT Press, 2020)

MIT Press have recently published a new book on Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access edited by Martin Eve and myself.

The book aims to provide a “critical inquiry into the politics, practices, and infrastructures of open access and the reconfiguration of scholarly communication in digital societies”.

My chapter, “Infrastructural Experiments and the Politics of Open Access” examines how scholarly communication infrastructures may be taken as both an object of research and a site of experimentation to explore questions of who has access, what counts, what matters, and how relations are organised.

The chapters in the book are also available as a set of open access PDFs to coincide with Open Access Week. The whole book is available as a single PDF here. Following is an overview of the table of contents with links to full texts of corresponding chapters.

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