Contact Tracing Apps: Should we embrace Surveillance?

‘Media show up wherever we humans face the unmanageable mortality of our material existence,’ wrote the philosopher John Peters Durham five years ago not knowing that the Coronavirus Covid-19 would prove him right. Already at the beginning of February there was an app for assisting us in managing our mortality better, and as it usually is with apps, soon there were too many of them to keep track.

There were apps that tracked your symptoms. Apps that calculated the likeliness of you having Covid-19 out of thin air. Apps that informed you about the coronavirus spread in your area crunching recent data. And apps that warned you rightly or wrongly about having come in contact with a carrier of Covid-19. All over the world governments were looking into how to best track the infections of their citizens. Thanks to COVID-19, surveillance seemed to have become acceptable. Even the EU, so far the leading in the fight for privacy and data protection, adapted to this tune. Its GDPR law had set a new standard influencing the handling of data worldwide. That was then. Now its European Data Protection Supervisor stated that Covid-19 is a moment in which ‘you realise the world has changed’. And the apps on our smartphones were the game changer.

Covid-19? There is an app for it

Smartphone applications seemed predestined for those many different sides of the invisible worldwide enemy No.1, Covid-19. Apps often solve rather particular, singular tasks. This aspect has been ridiculed in the meme ‘there is an app for it’ and has led academics studying digital technology to describe apps as ‘mundane software’ (Morris & Murray 2018). Mundane, as apps assist us in everyday life with banal tasks and ‘little nothings’ – nothings that seem insignificant only as long as they are not linked together. Now that even insignificant contacts can become a threat, the hope of curbing the pandemic lies on those little nothings. At least for some. Others fear a further normalisation of surveillance.

Continue reading “Contact Tracing Apps: Should we embrace Surveillance?”

CFP: Disrupting Digital Monolingualism

Call For Proposals

An international workshop on languages in critical digital theory and practice

Hosted by Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, 16th and 17th June 2020

This two-day workshop explores the theme of ‘Disrupting Digital Monolingualism’ and brings together leading researchers, educators, digital practitioners, language-focused professionals, policy makers and other interested parties to address the challenges of multilingualism in digital spaces and to collectively propose new models and solutions. The workshop will combine both conceptual (strategy, policy and theory) and practical perspectives (digital ecosystems, methods and tools with a focus on language).

By bringing together multiple perspectives on languages-driven digital practice, we hope the workshop will lead to new collaborations centred on multilingualism and geocultural diversity. Outcomes will be defined by attendees, but may include co-design of conceptual frameworks or practical outcomes such as prototypes or toolkits.

Key dates:

  • Call for proposals deadline: 12pm (GMT) on 16 March 2020
  • Response to proposals: 30 March 2020
  • Workshop: Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 June 2020

Please find more information here.

– Paul Spence

Welcome new Visiting Researcher Cécile Malaspina!

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Cécile Malaspina will be joining us as a Visiting Researcher in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. I know many of you will already know of Cécile’s work, not least of which is her important translation of Gilbert Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects as well as her recent book An Epistemology of Noise: Philosophy, Digital Culture and Artistic Experimentation. She was recently elected to a six-year chair as a London-based Program Director Abroad for the prestigious College International de Philosophie, Paris, which was established by Jacques Derrida and others in the 1980s. Our department, along with French and Philosophy, will provide a London home for her chair, and this will entail hosting regular public seminars over the next three years exploring the the crossroads of philosophy, technology, the digital and the arts. This will resonate with the research of many in our department and you are all cordially invited to attend.

Cécile will kick off An Aesthetics of Noise on Thursday 27 February 2020 from 17:00-19:00 in the Embankment Room (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-aesthetics-of-noise-open-access-seminar-tickets-92982355729).

More about Cécile’s research interests can be found in her bio below and she has asked that I extend a heartfelt invitation to all colleagues who may be interested in collaborating, discussing shared research interests or simply meeting for a coffee to chat.

– Mark Coté

Cécile Malaspina is a leading scholar on the work of the French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon, among other things having translated his important monograph On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. She has recently been elected to the executive board of the Collège International de Philosophie (CIPh) and to the editorial board of its journal, Rue Descartes. This highly prestigious research institution was co-founded in 1983 by Jacques Derrida, François Châtelet, Jean-Pierre Faye and Dominique Lecourt with a mandate for the independent and intersectional exploration of philosophy, and to hold seminars that are free and open to the public. Cécile was nominated to a six-year chair as Program Director Abroad. She will start a seminar series for the CIPh at King’s College, open to the entire King’s community and the wider public, with the aim to establish a close partnership between the CIPh and King’s College.

Her seminar, An Aesthetics of Noise: Philosophy, Digital Culture and Artistic Experimentation, will invite emergent and prominent thinkers to reflect on the aesthetic dimension of ‘noise’ in science, technology and the arts. How do these domains redraw the conditions of possible experience? How do we judge the singularity of experience in an age not of enlightenment, but of complexity and noise? Cécile has previously published An Epistemology of Noise. With this seminar she turns her attention to the what is singular in experience, to the new dimensions of perception or aísthēsis (αἴσθησῐς) afforded by technological mediation, as well as scientific and artistic creativity. Cécile is qualified as maître de conferences in philosophy and epistemology, history of the sciences and technology by the French ministry for education. She holds a doctorate summa cum laude in Epistemology, Philosophy and History of Science and Technology from Paris 7 University Denis Diderot. Cécile is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Rue Descartes and Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, as well as of the independent publisher Copy Press, and she acts as a reviewer for journals and funding bodies.

Openings for Two New Professorships in “Digital Technology in Culture and Society” and “Critical Digital Practice”

The Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London is looking for two full Professors to join us. One opening is for “Professor of Digital Technology in Culture and Society” and the other is for “Professor of Critical Digital Practice”. They will contribute to developing research, teaching and collaborations to facilitate “critical inquiry with and about the digital”.

King’s College London has a long tradition of research in the digital humanities, going back to the early 1970s. Building on the department’s expertise in digital information management, digital research methods and humanities computing from the early 1990s, it has grown to become a world leader in research on digital humanities, culture and society. Following several hiring rounds in the past few years, the department has a diverse community of scholars, undergraduates and graduate students exploring the role of digital technology in society from a humanities perspective, informed by a variety of different fields. This includes our BA in Digital Culture, MA Programmes in Big Data in Culture & Society, Digital Culture & Society  and Digital Asset & Media Management, as well as MA/PhD research degrees in Digital Humanities. The two professors will join at an exciting time for the department and will help to shape its future direction and activities.

The department has a new bespoke Digital Humanities Teaching Lab, a state of the art education space with computer facilities for up to 35 students and a larger capacity collaborative teaching area with views of London’s Embankment. It benefits from an array of exciting research projects valued at some £8m as well as collaborations with a wide variety of London-based and international organisations and institutions. This September will see the launch of a new MSc in Digital Economy.

On the new posts, Stuart Dunn, Head of Department, says:

We seek to recruit two outstanding individuals who will enable us, and King’s, to continue taking forward the unique contribution that Digital Humanities has to make in the 21st century.

These posts represent a major expansion of the senior academic leadership of the Department of Digital Humanities, in fact it is the largest such expansion in the Department’s history. Situated in one of the leading Arts and Humanities Faculties in the world, they are an opportunity for us to consolidate the strengths we have nurtured in recent years, and connect them with the kind of ground-breaking teaching and research for which the Department  has always been known. 

Marion Thain, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, comments:

The Department of Digital Humanities at King’s is a nation-leading centre in the field. This search for two new professors sits alongside the College’s provision of a purpose-built digital teaching lab as part of our investment in our world-class standing in this field. This is an amazing opportunity for talented and dynamic scholars to join us at King’s.

We particularly welcome applications from women and black and minority ethnic candidates. The closing date is 3rd March 2020. Further details are available here (Professor of Digital Technology in Culture and Society) and here (Professor of Critical Digital Practice). If you have any questions regarding the posts please email stuart.dunn@kcl.ac.uk.

Professor of Digital Technology in Culture and Society

The post holder will deliver world-leading research, research-informed teaching, and research mentoring and supervision.  Applicants will be able to demonstrate an international profile with an excellent publication record and a track record of achieving grant funding. The post holder will build and expand upon the Department’s research, extending into new directions and significant emergent areas.

They will be expected to provide inspiring and innovative teaching and research that explores the social, cultural and intellectual role of computing within contemporary society, in ways that expand and enrich the digital humanities as more conventionally understood.  They will teach across the Department’s existing range of options and create new modules of broad interest at both BA and MA level.

Applications from all areas of the digital humanities and culture will be considered but we particularly welcome applications from candidates whose research provokes new thinking and crosses disciplinary and domain boundaries.  The post holder will join a vibrant and energetic research community in which the Faculty is investing heavily.

Job pack available here.

Professor of Critical Digital Practice

The post holder will have a strong background as a critical practitioner in a field of the digital humanities, broadly defined. They will deliver world-leading research, including, where appropriate, practice-ed research, research-informed teaching, and research mentoring and supervision.  Applicants will be able to demonstrate an international profile with an excellent publication record commensurate with their expertise, and a track record of achieving grant funding. The post holder will build and expand upon the Department’s research, extending into new directions and significant emergent areas.

They will be expected to provide inspiring and innovative teaching and research grounded in a field of critical digital practice, such as coding, visualization, design or creative methods. They will offer teaching across the Department’s existing range of options, and create new modules of broad interest at both BA and MA level. They will seek out new and emerging student markets and contribute to the development of new programmes to meet student demand, including distance learning.  They will also contribute significantly to the Department and College’s vision for practice-led PhD supervision.

Applications from all areas of the digital humanities and culture will be considered but we particularly welcome applications from candidates whose research provokes new thinking and crosses disciplinary and domain boundaries, and which engages with practice-based research.  The post holder will join a vibrant and energetic research community in which the Faculty is investing heavily.

Job pack available here.

Public Seminar Series: Walking with GPS and Digital Place; Transparency and Managed Visibilities; Platforms and Cultural Production; and Data/Infrastructures in Cities and Forests

We’re delighted to announce the schedule of public seminars for this semester organised by the Department of Digital Humanities:

  • Walking with GPS, Personal Cartographies and Digital Place with Jeremy Wood (artist), Cristina Goldschmidt Kiminami (KCL), Claire Reddleman (KCL) and Stuart Dunn (KCL), Wed 12 February 2020, 6-8pm. https://gps-digital-place.eventbrite.co.uk
  • The Digital Prism: Transparency and Managed Visibilities in a Datafied World with Mikkel Flyverbom (Copenhagen Business School), Jennifer Pybus (KCL) and Clare Birchall (KCL), Wednesday 18 March 2020, 4.30-6.30pm: https://digital-prism.eventbrite.co.uk
  • Platforms and Cultural Production with Thomas Poell (University of Amsterdam), David B. Nieborg (University of Toronto) and Brooke Erin Duffy (Cornell University), Wednesday 15 April 2020, 5-7pm: https://platforms-culture.eventbrite.co.uk
  • Experimental Environments: Data/Infrastructures in Cities and Forests with Gunes Tavmen (KCL) and Jennifer Gabrys (University of Cambridge), Wednesday 20 May 2020, 4-6pm: https://experimental-environments.eventbrite.co.uk

A poster for this semester’s public seminar series can be found here. We have a range of other events, including book launches, talks, workshops and symposia, which you can find on our events page.

 

 

New Article: “‘We only have 12 years’: YouTube and the IPCC report on global warming of 1.5ºC” in First Monday

Liliana Bounegru, Lecturer in Digital Methods in the Department of Digital Humanities has just published a new article titled “’We only have 12 years: YouTube and the IPCC report on global warming of 1.5ºC” in First Monday co-authored with Kari De Pryck (University of Geneva / University of Cambridge), Tommaso Venturini (CNRS) and Michele Mauri (DensityDesign Lab, Politecnico di Milano). The article is open access and available here. The abstract is copied below, along with a selection of the exploratory visualisations from the analysis.

   
“We only have 12 years”: YouTube and the IPCC report on global warming of 1.5ºC This article contributes to the study of climate debates online by examining how the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) played out on YouTube following its release in October 2018. We examined features of 40 videos that ranked the highest in YouTube’s search engine over the course of four weeks after the publication of the report. Additionally, this study examines the shifting visibility of the videos, the nature of the channels that published them and the way in which they articulated the issue of climate change. We found that media activity around SR15 was animated by a mix of professional and user-led channels, with the former enjoying higher and more stable visibility in YouTube ranking. We identified four main recurrent themes: disaster and impacts, policy options and solutions, political and ideological struggles around climate change and contested science. The discussion of policy options and solutions was particularly prominent. Critiques of the SR15 report took different forms: as well as denialist videos which downplayed the severity of climate change, there were also several clips which criticized the report for underestimating the extent of warming or overestimating the feasibility of proposed policies.

Call for PhD scholarship applications ‘Creative AI as a medium in artistic and curatorial practice’

We are excited to announce a PhD scholarship for research into creative AI in artistic and curatorial practice in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery funded by LAHP. We welcome applicants from the field of new media studies, art and gallery studies, science and technology studies, scholarship and professional practice in visual and media arts and other fields linked to creative AI and machine learning. Advanced AI expertise is not needed but we are looking for someone who can demonstrate academic achievements to study creative AI, AI as a new medium and/or new media art as these are the project’s relevant subject areas. If you are curious to study the role of this new medium in art and society with particular attention to the challenges it poses for art institutions from an academic perspective in theory and practice at the Serpentine, you should apply [full project description here].

Focus of the research project

Machine learning has had a transformational impact on the corporate world while the cultural sector is still in need of acquiring adequate ‘media literacy’ to engage with this technology. The aim of the PhD project is to tackle the existing gap in media literacy around AI and to offer a much-needed foundation from which cultural institutions may play a pivotal role in offering a space for societal critique and reflection. Curators and cultural institutions often struggle to understand the technology’s functioning and its creative capacity, holding cultural actors back from much needed engagement – the need to reflect on the societal impact of this technology critically but also creatively has been recognised widely. This interdisciplinary PhD project will research and synthesize knowledge production by linking scholarly research with cultural initiatives, in particular the Creative AI lab, generating guidance for the wider cultural sector. Part of the research project is practice-based in the form of an embedded study working with the Serpentine’s Digital Commissions and Research & Development Team responsible for developing and presenting artistic projects that are engaging advanced technologies. Continue reading “Call for PhD scholarship applications ‘Creative AI as a medium in artistic and curatorial practice’”

Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL

There has recently been much interest and attention within King’s College London to the field of museum studies. This is hardly surprising: the university sits within one of the richest and most diverse cultural cities in the world, surrounded by gems such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the V&A, the Soane Museum and many, many more, large and small, famous and niche. Together with the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ cutting-edge interdisciplinary research agenda, and there is massive scope for interdisciplinary dialogue about what museums are, and should be, in 2020. However, that interest, and the expertise which drives it, is dispersed across various departments at King’s, and exists way beyond Arts and Humanities. Some, such as that found in CMCI, concerns the social and political effects of museums and how they are shaped by and shape contemporary social, economic and political imperatives. Others, such as DDH, are interested in digital methods for exploring, explaining and present collections. Others still are interested in the managerial aspects of museums. And, others bring specialist technical skills currently applied in other areas, such as imaging, and 3D.

There is, in general, limited knowledge of how this interdisciplinary area might fit together more coherently at King’s. As Museum and Gallery Studies is a strongly interdisciplinary field, with an increasingly important digital component, academics working in this area are effectively dispersed across King’s various departments. As a result, they are often unaware of colleagues within King’s who share similar interests. This situation sharply diminishes the opportunity of internal—research and teaching—collaborations, and significantly weakens the external profile of King’s as a leader in this field.

The project Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL will enable us to establish close collaborations between our sister departments, CMCI and DDH, whilst facilitating the establishment of connections with relevant colleagues across King’s. Continue reading “Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL”

New Article: “‘Fake News’ as Infrastructural Uncanny”, New Media & Society

An article on “‘Fake news’ as infrastructural uncanny” co-authored by Lecturers at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London – Jonathan Gray and Liliana Bounegru – along with Tommaso Venturini (also a former Lecturer at the department) has just been published in New Media & Society. It builds on work that they co-investigated on the Field Guide to “Fake News” with the Public Data Lab. The article is open access and freely available on the web and in PDF format. The abstract is copied below.

‘Fake news’ as infrastructural uncanny

Jonathan Gray, Liliana Bounegru, Tommaso Venturini

In this article, we examine how the social disturbance precipitated by ‘fake news’ can be viewed as a kind of infrastructural uncanny. We suggest that the threat of problematic and viral junk news can raise existential questions about the routine circulation, engagement and monetisation of content through the Web and social media. Prompted by the unsettling effects associated with the ‘fake news’ scandal, we propose methodological tactics for exploring (1) the link economy and the ranking of content, (2) the like economy and the metrification of engagement and (3) the tracker economy and the commodification of attention. Rather than focusing on the misleading content of junk news, such tactics surface the infrastructural conditions of their circulation, enabling public interventions and experiments to interrogate, challenge and change their role in reconfiguring relations between different aspects of social, cultural, economic and political life.

Welcome to Kat Braybrooke, visiting researcher at the Department of Digital Humanities ✨

We are delighted to announce that Kat Braybrooke will be joining us as a visiting researcher at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London.

During her stay, she will build on the findings of her doctoral research on the power relations of “makerspaces” in cultural institutions by exploring local community projects that harness digital creativity to foster social and environmental justice. More about her research interests can be found in her bio (below) and she can be found on Twitter at @codekat. Welcome Kat!

 

Kat Braybrooke is a digital anthropologist and director of Studiõ Wê & Üs with extensive international experience in leading design and curatorial projects in collaboration with open technology, media arts and third sector organisations across Europe, Canada and Asia. Her work critically examines the links between material participation and socio-cultural transitions, taking a particular look at the dynamics of creative digital communities and spaces, and their associations with institutional actors, from libraries to governments. Kat was awarded a PhD in Media & Cultural Studies from the University of Sussex in 2019 for a study funded by the Sussex Humanities Lab which combined ethnographic and action research to explore the institutional dynamics of a new generation of experimental sites for digital making and learning around cultural artefacts, or ‘collections makerspaces’, within four museums in London, from Tate to the British Museum. She also studied the associations between maker cultures and government sustainability policies in China as a delegate of the British Council in 2018 and 2019, and as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Humboldt Centre for Transformations of Human-Environment Systems in Berlin. In association with her academic projects, Kat has spent the past decade working with third sector collaborators like Mozilla, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the UK Parliament, and the Liu Centre for Global Issues to decolonise networked technologies and foster greater digital agency for marginalised and non-binary communities through critical making and design interventions. Her work has been featured on the BBC, Guardian, DAZED, Rabble, Furtherfield and The Tyee, and she is an editor of the Journal of Peer Production.