The international Martha Cheung Award for research excellence in the paper on cross-linguistic modelling and computing received by Dr Gabriele Salciute Civiliene

Dr Gabriele Salciute Civiliene, Lecturer in Digital Humanities Education at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, has been announced the winner of the 2021 Martha Cheung Award for Best English Article in Translation Studies by the SISU Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, Shanghai International Studies University. The Award is established in honour of the late Professor Martha Cheung, formerly Chair Professor of Translation at Hong Kong Baptist University, for her seminal contribution to the reconceptualization of translation from non-Western perspectives. The Martha Cheung Award is one of the top awards in the field.

Gabriele Salciute Civiliene

Gabriele’s article “Between Surface and Depth: Towards embodied ontologies of text computing across languages”, published in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 45/2 (2020), has been praised on the Award page as a highly original, interdisciplinary contribution that offers new insights into the study of translation. It provides a critical consideration of what underlies the epistemo-methodological impasses of the mainstream approach to repetition in translation studies, and considers the possibility of a new practice for cross-linguistic quantitative reading. The article demonstrates how data visualization based on the computational analysis of translated text can illuminate our understanding of cognition and perception. Translation theory is shown to present an interesting problem for the Digital Humanities, one that fundamentally complicates text computing and challenges the flat dimensions of quantification. Dr. Salciute Civiliene draws on her research into the design of cross-linguistic distant reading and the modelling of repetition strings as equivalents of dynamic translatorial response to argue for and demonstrate the possibility of thick computing as suspended between textual surfaces and depths.”

New edition of Data Journalism Handbook now open access with Amsterdam University Press

This blog is cross-posted from lilianabounegru.org which also includes additional images and media. These can also be viewed in this thread.

Today The Data Journalism Handbook: Towards a Critical Data Practice (co-edited with Jonathan Gray) is published on Amsterdam University Press. It is published as part of a new book series on Digital Studies which is also being launched today. You can find the book here, including an open access version: http://bit.ly/data-journalism-handbook-2

The book provides a wide-ranging collection of perspectives on how data journalism is done around the world. It is published a decade after the first edition (available in 14 languages) began life as a collaborative draft at the Mozilla Festival 2011 in London.

Book sprint at MozFest 2011 for first edition of Data Journalism Handbook.

The new edition, with 54 chapters from 74 leading researchers and practitioners of data journalism, gives a “behind the scenes” look at the social lives of datasets, data infrastructures, and data stories in newsrooms, media organizations, startups, civil society organizations and beyond.

The book includes chapters by leading researchers around the world and from practitioners at organisations including Al Jazeera, BBC, BuzzFeed News, Der Spiegel, eldiario.es, The Engine Room, Global Witness, Google News Lab, Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), La Nacion, NOS, OjoPúblico, Rappler, United Nations Development Programme and the Washington Post.

An online preview of various chapters from book was launched in collaboration with the European Journalism Centre and the Google News Initiative and can be found here.

The book draws on over a decade of professional and academic experience engaging with the field of data journalism, including through my role as Data Journalism Programme Lead at the European Journalism Centre; my research on data journalism with the Digital Methods Initiative; my PhD research on “news devices” at the universities of Groningen and Ghent; and my research, teaching and collaborations around data journalism at the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London.

Further background about the book can be found in our introduction. Following is the full table of contents and some quotes about the book. We’ll be organising various activities around the book in coming months, which you can follow with the #ddjbook hashtag on Twitter.

If you adopt the book for a class we’d love to hear from you so we can keep track of how it is being used (and also update this list of data journalism courses and programmes around the world) and to inform future activities in this area. Hope you enjoy it!

Continue reading “New edition of Data Journalism Handbook now open access with Amsterdam University Press”

Ethics of vaccine passports and COVID status apps by Btihaj Ajana

In response to Ada Lovelace Institute’s call for public evidence regarding the vaccine passports and COVID status apps, Dr Btihaj Ajana, Reader in Media and Digital Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities, recently submitted some critical reflections on the ethical implications of these technologies and proposals.

Here is a summary of submission:

Discrimination and inequality

I believe that the deployment of Covid-19 vaccine passports and status apps for governing movement and access to certain spaces and services will inevitably create new forms of discrimination while exacerbating exiting ones. First of all, it should be borne in mind that, for the time being, not all countries in the world have equal access to the new Covid-19 vaccines nor the equal economic capacity to acquire the needed doses to immunise the whole population. For instance, many low-income countries will be relying on COVAX which can only achieve 20% vaccination coverage (see www.gavi.org). This, as scientific studies indicate, is not enough for achieving herd immunity through vaccination. As a result, people from such countries are likely to have their freedom of travel severely restricted as a result of the potential imposition of vaccine passports worldwide.

Also, such developments need to be regarded as part of the historical and social contexts (not just in terms of the current Covid-19 situation). We are already living in a “world apartheid” whereby the amalgamation of borders, passports, and biometric technologies has been instrumental in creating a dual regime of circulation and an international class differentiation through which some nations can move around and access services with ease while others are excluded and made to endure an “excess of documentation and securitisation” (because of their nationality, socio-economic standing, etc. and soon likely, because of their vaccine status). Introducing Covid-19 vaccine passports and status apps as “tokens of freedom” will add yet another layer of inequality and discrimination, the consequences of which are likely to outlive the pandemic itself. 

Digital divide and technological determinism

The proposal for introducing vaccine status apps assumes that everyone has or wants a smartphone. There is a high level of technological determinism currently dominating the debates on these issues and which seems to ignore that the digital divide still exists in the world. Making freedom of travel and right to access services and spaces contingent on having a digital vaccination passport and a status app is inherently exclusionary. Already the deployment of contact tracing apps has revealed the flaws of such technologies. In Spain for instance, Radar Covid, the official contact tracing app, is not operational on older iPhone models. Travellers to Spain must download and use the app, but if their smartphone is an older model, then they cannot use the app. Similarly, and as stated on NHS website, the Covid-19 app does not work on all phones: “Older models of Apple (iPhone 5S and iPhone 6/6Plus or earlier) and Android phones that do not support iOS 13.5 or Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and higher will not be able to use the app. Windows phones and new models of Huawei smartphones launched from May 2019 will also not be able to use the app. This is because your phone needs access to the Apple App Store, or Google Play Services, to be able to download the NHS COVID-19 app.”

As such, technological affordances also play a role in shaping the use, access and experience of Covid-19 related apps, and can thereby lead to forms of exclusion.  Furthermore, the imposition of digital vaccine passports and status apps also seems to ignore that some people do not wish to have their everyday activities completely dependent on a digital app or a certificate. The right to be disconnected from the digital world and its big data machine, as hard as it is in today’s world, should still be respected and protected.

Function creep

The issue of function creep refers to when a certain technology gets repurposed and used for something other than its intended use. We have seen time and again throughout the recent decades how practices and mechanisms that are initially designed for specific exceptional circumstances end up becoming routine and widespread across the entire fabric of society. One example is to do with the application of biometric technology. The initial social and political use of biometrics was limited to exceptional spaces and extreme cases, such as detention centres and crime investigations. Over the years, biometrics became more widely used so much so that it is now embedded in everyday products and services.  We use biometric fingerprints and facial recognition to unlock our phones or log into our bank accounts; we use MobilePay to purchase our morning coffee; voice recognition to interact with virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and so on. Technologies that would have seemed intrusive a few years ago are so commonplace today. And with the current technologies being developed to manage people’s health status through biometric apps, we are likely to see a similar function creep and repurposing that may well outlive the pandemic itself, raising questions about privacy, human rights and data protection.

A false sense of protection

Scientific evidence concerning the efficacy of new covid-19 vaccines in terms of preventing infection and transmission is still hazy. As Hodgson et al. argue, assessment of the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccine is particularly complex given that the fundamental understanding of the pathogen is still evolving. There is an urgent need for critical and scientifically rigorous appraisals of the efficacy outcomes of these newly developed Covid-19 vaccines before rushing to implement vaccine passports and status apps. Otherwise, there is a risk that the implementation of these mechanisms might end up giving a false sense of safety and protection while there is not yet a conclusive evidence that someone who is vaccinated cannot pass on the virus to others.

Overall, I believe that the implementation of Covid-19 vaccine passports and status apps carries several risks with potentially harmful consequences for individuals and societies.

Btihaj Ajana, February 2021

 

 

New article: “Immunitarianism: defence and sacrifice in the politics of Covid-19” by Btihaj Ajana

Photo credit: Monica Bobe

Dr Btihaj Ajana, Reader in Media and Digital Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities, has recently published a research article entitled, “Immunitarianism: defence and sacrifice in the politics of Covid-19” in History and Philosophy of Life Sciences journal.

Full article can be accessed on: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40656-021-00384-9

Article Abstract:

As witnessed over the last year, immunity emerged as one of most highly debated topics in the current Covid-19 pandemic. Countries around the globe have been debating whether herd immunity or lockdown is the best response, as the race continues for the development and rollout of effective vaccines against coronavirus and as the economic costs of implementing strict containment measures are weighed against public health costs. What became evident all the more is that immunity is precisely what bridges between biological life and political life in the current climate, be it in terms of the contentious notion of herd immunity, the geopolitical struggle for vaccines, or the possible emergence of “Covid-elite”, i.e. holders of so-called “immunity passports”. Immunity, as such, is certainly not only a matter of science and biology alone, but is inherently political in the way that pandemics themselves are often highly politicised. Drawing on the work of Roberto Esposito and other literature from the field of biopolitics and immunology, this paper provides a critical examination of the concept of immunity in light of the recent events, highlighting the intersections between the politics of defence and the politics of sacrifice which animate governments’ immunitary responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper ends with a discussion on the forms of solidarity and local initiatives that have been mobilised during the current pandemic and their potential for an affirmative form of biopolitics. Overall, the main aim of this paper is to provide a critical cultural and philosophical analysis of Covid-19 debates and responses and a nuanced account on the biopolitical effects of the current pandemic, highlighting the paradoxical nature of immunity which straddles at once negative practices of defence and sacrifice as well as affirmative forms of community and solidarity beyond state apparatuses.

 

Openings for Two New Professorships in “Digital Technology in Culture and Society” and “Critical Digital Practice” and One Senior Lecturer/Lecturer Post in “Digital Culture and Society”

Last year we started a hiring process for two new professorships in the Department of Digital Humanities, which was unfortunately interrupted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are delighted to announce that we will be resuming search for these two professorial posts, plus an additional Senior Lecturer/Lecturer position in Digital Culture and Society. As before if there are any enquiries, please do get in touch!

The Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London is looking for two full Professors and one Senior Lecturer/Lecturer to join us. They will contribute to developing research, teaching and collaborations to facilitate “critical inquiry with and about the digital”. The new posts are as follows:

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 hires will join at an exciting time for the department and will help to shape its future direction and activities.

Continue reading “Openings for Two New Professorships in “Digital Technology in Culture and Society” and “Critical Digital Practice” and One Senior Lecturer/Lecturer Post in “Digital Culture and Society””

Call for Papers: “Critical Technical Practice(s) in Digital Research”, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

A call for papers on “Critical Technical Practice(s) in Digital Research” has just been published by Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, for a special issue edited by Jonathan Gray (Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London), Daniela van Geenen (University of Siegen) and Dr. Karin van Es (Utrecht University). The text of the call is available here and copied below.

Continue reading “Call for Papers: “Critical Technical Practice(s) in Digital Research”, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies”

Jobs: Five Lectureships at Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London

We’re delighted to announce that the Department of Digital Humanities is seeking to appoint five members of academic staff to contribute to its developing profile of teaching and research.

The posts, which include three Academic Education Pathway (AEP) Lectureships and two Education and Research (E&R) Lectureships, range from marketing and communication, to digital economy and media, to computation and programming in the Digital Humanities.

For full details and more about how to apply, see the following links:

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 in 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 an Msc in Digital Economy, MA Programmes in Digital Asset and Media Management, Big Data in Culture & Society, Digital Culture & Society, as well as our BA in Digital Culture and an MA/PhD research degrees in Digital Humanities. These roles will join at an exciting time for the department and will help to shape its future direction and activities.

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.