In case you missed Safiya Umoja Noble’s fantastic talk at Open Data Manchester in May, or want to listen again, the talk is now available online and can be viewed here.
In case you missed Safiya Umoja Noble’s fantastic talk at Open Data Manchester in May, or want to listen again, the talk is now available online and can be viewed here.
Tuesday 8th May 18.00 – 20.00
In her recent best-selling book Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem. Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of colour, specifically women of colour- and contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.
Safiya Umoja Noble
Dr. Safiya U. Noble is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communication. She is the recipient of a Hellman Fellowship and the UCLA Early Career Award.
Noble’s academic research focuses on the design of digital media platforms on the internet and their impact on society. Her work is both sociological and interdisciplinary, marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology design. Her monograph on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines is entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press). She currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, and is the co-editor of two books: The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Culture and Class Online, and Emotions, Technology & Design and several articles and book chapters. Safiya holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Fresno with an emphasis on African American/Ethnic Studies. She is a partner in Stratelligence, a firm that specializes in research on information and data science challenges, and is a co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute, which provides training for organizations committed to transforming their information management practices toward more just, and equitable outcomes.
Supported by MMU and The Federation in partnership with The Omidyar Network and Co-op Foundation
Half day workshop to build tools for a ‘post-fact’ world
Apparently we’ve ‘had enough of experts’. Increasingly online platforms quietly tailor what we encounter to fit our existing views- creating echo chambers out of our prejudices. We are worried that the role of evidence in politics is slipping- and we want to do something about it.
A preliminary workshop was held in November attracting a broad range of people from far and wide. Together a list of initiatives was created responding to these challenges. Click this link to read the list of initiatives and add your own thoughts.
Now we are running a follow-on event to allow people to develop these ideas. If you’re an activist, policy wonk, artist, or simply someone interested in this topic we’d love for you to join us. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t make the first event as we will get you up to speed with a chance to add new ideas on the day.
For more information regarding the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-fact’ Politics workshops go to www.postfactpolitics.com
July’s event looking at how data was used before, during and after the referendum provoked plenty of thought provoking discussion. The two presentations from Celia Russell and Julian Tait have now been uploaded on to SlideShare and the audio posted on Soundcloud. Unfortunately due to a noisy video projector the audio isn’t the best but the presentations and discussions from Michelle Brook, Bob Barr, Celia Russell and Julian Tait are audible and have been edited down as separate files.
Celia Russell – Making sense of Brexit?
Julian Tait – Some graphs and data around the referendum
The audio can be found here
We are putting together a follow up event looking at belief, evidence and politics that will take place in November.
6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 27th September 2016
Greenheys Business Centre
Manchester Science Park
Manchester M15 6JJ
Sign up on Eventbrite here
This month’s Open Data Manchester looks at how two local authorities are using data to deliver service.
Alison Mckenzie Folan and Alison Hughes from Wigan Council will show how they are using data and open data to help them engage the community, target resources and enhance services. Wigan Deal has been seen as an exemplar of engagement between the public sector, local businesses and community.
Jamie Whyte leads Trafford Innovation Lab which has been developing new and innovative ways to make open data understandable. The insight created has enabled community groups to use data to help them apply for funding, created resources for councillors and shown a spotlight onto the complex world of school admissions
Open Data Manchester events are spaces for learning, discussion and collaboration. The events are open and free
Tuesday 26th July, 18.30 – 20.30
CoopHQ, 1 Angel Meadows, Manchester M60 0AG
Partial truths, distorted facts and outright lies have helped create the febrile climate that exists post Brexit. The information war that took place prior to the referendum created an atmosphere in which rational judgements were hard to make and gut instinct rose to the fore. Within this context, advocates of Vote Leave rubbished experts and mishandled facts with glee. Anyone contesting these claims were branded as promoters of Project Fear and part of the expert-led conspiracy that sought to undermine the public’s right to self-determination.
Post referendum and the dust hasn’t yet settled. We are starting to see lots of data giving us insight into what happened – from polls to voting patterns, from demographics to economic forecasts. This is an opportunity to analyse and share thoughts on a most extraordinary event.
We are an open forum and anyone who has insight and analysis to share are encouraged to participate.
Tickets are free and available here
This is a synopsis of the meeting held in Berlin that forms the basis of the upcoming Open : Data : Cooperation event on the 20th October 2014
Open : Data : Cooperatives.
On the evening of the 16th July 2014 in a small bar of SingerStraße in Berlin a group of Open Knowledge Festival attendees came together for a meeting, to discuss whether cooperatives offered the potential to create formalised structures for the creation and sharing of common data assets, and whether this would enable the creation of value for their stakeholders. This discussion is sets the framework for an event that will take place in Manchester UK on the 20th October 2014
The discussion was initially broken down into seven themes of
This is a synopsis of the discussion
Why create a data cooperative?
Our modern, technologised society exists on data. Our everyday interactions leave a trace that is often invisible and unknown to us. The services that we interact with, the daily transactions that we make and the way we negotiate through our everyday generate data, building a picture of who we are and what we do. This data also enables aggregators to predict, personalise and intervene seamlessly and sometimes invisibly. Even for the most technically literate, keeping track of what we do and don’t give away is daunting. There is a need to stem the unbridled exploitation of personal data by both public and private organisations, to empower individuals to have more control over the data they create, and for people to have more of a say in the services that are built upon and informed by this data. Data cooperatives may help rebalance the relationship between those that create data and those that seek to exploit it whilst also creating the environment for fair and consensual exchange.
Cooperation for the creation of common good is a widely understood concept and in a world where value is often extracted by large organisations with opaque processes and ethics, they are starting to be seen as a way of reinvigorating value transactions within smaller, often under-represented communities of interest, and between organisations that create and use data.
Finding already existing data cooperatives is not easy. Examples such as The Good Data which allow people to control data flow at a browser level and the Swiss-based Health Bank are two known examples, and as the principles of data custodianship for social good become understood there is little to challenge that more would develop.
There are organisations that exhibit cooperative traits but may not themselves be cooperatives or co-owned structures. Open Street Map (OSM) is a resource that is essentially created and administered by the community, with the underlying motivation for OSM being for common good. The open source movement was cited as being the largest example of technological cooperativism, although the largest platform on which cooperative endeavour is expressed (GitHub) is a privately owned Silicon Valley entity.
There are many versions of coops. These have traditionally come out of the needs of the membership who subscribe to them. Structures of these cooperatives have generally been organised around a single class of member – workers, producers, consumers, etc. The single class structure, although creating an equitable environment for those that are members of a particular coop, can tend towards self interest and although they may be bound by the notion of the common good, the mechanism for the creation of the common good or commons is seldom explicit.
Internationally the creation of new forms of cooperatives that explicitly express the development of common good across multiple classes of stakeholders are more abundant. Social co-ops in Italy and Solidarity coops in Canada often provide services such as healthcare, education and social care. Could these types of cooperative be more relevant for our networked and distributed age?
Michel Bauwens founder of the P2P Foundation talks about the creation of these new forms of cooperatives, and how it is necessary to wean ourselves off the notion of cooperativism as a means of participation in a capitalist economy, to one that builds a commons both material and immaterial. This commons would be subscribed to by other commons creating entities and licenced to non-commons creating organisations.
Would a data cooperative necessarily adopt these newer forms of distributed and commons creating structure? There appears to be a consensus that commons creating, multi-stakeholders cooperatives are positive, but is this model easily understood? And can individual circumstances especially when dealing with communities based around sensitive issues, create an environment for sharing beyond a single class? A single class cooperative may seem to be a simpler, immediate solution for a community of people who have specific needs and issues and where strong trust relationships need to be maintained.
It is understood that personal data empowerment is not just about selling data to the highest bidder and any organisation acting as a data intermediary would need to be able to accommodate the complexity of reasons as to why people donate or give. Even though economic gain might seem an obvious attraction for people, motivations are more complex and often financial incentives can be detrimental to the process of participation and giving.
From The Good Data’s perspective data cooperatives should split the data layer from the service layer. The cooperative should control the data layer and enable/choose others to build the service layer as it is likely that data cooperatives would not have the capacity or expertise to create end to end solutions.
The structure of the data cooperative should encourage maximum participation and consent, although 100% participation and engagement is unrealistic. Flat structures have a tendency towards hierarchy through operational efficiency and founder endeavour. Even though the majority of members align with the aims of the cooperative, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be constantly encumbered with the burden of governance.
A certain pragmatism and sensitivity needs to be adopted to the model of cooperative that a group may want to adopt. There are examples of communities maintaining informality to enable themselves to be less burdened by expectation, to maintain independence or minimise liability. Advocates of data cooperatives need to be sensitive to this.
Data Cooperatives need to have a simplicity of purpose. What do they do, for whom and why? Is the building of data cooperative around particular issue enough? Or do we need to take a look at the data cooperative as being a platform that allows the representation of personal data across a broader portfolio of interests?
Although the there is a tendency to see a data cooperative as being a mechanism to generate bulk, high worth data that can then be used to draw down value from large organisations, a more appropriate application might be in enabling a smaller community of interest, perhaps around a particular health condition, to draw down certain services or to negotiate for a better deal. The notion of withholding data from public service providers might be seen to be detrimental to the delivery of that service, but it could also create a more balanced decision making process. It is also known that many providers of service collect more data than they actually need for the delivery of that service. Empowering people to take more control over their data may create a situation where the practice of excessive data gathering is curtailed.
Ideally for a data cooperative to be most effective, the level of data literacy amongst members would need to be raised so that members could make more informed decisions about what data was given away or used. This ideal might be difficult to achieve without a broader awareness raising campaign about the power of personal data. The revealing of the ways that security agencies collect data by Edward Snowdon was sensational and although it highlighted that we unintentionally give away a lot, it didn’t build a wider popular discourse around protection and usage of personal data.
Raising the level of data awareness amongst cooperative members would create more informed decision making, but this task would need to be delivered in a nuanced way and ultimately some people might not engage. This could be the case with people who are dependant on service and have little power or real choice as to their decisions.
For a data cooperative to represent its membership and control the flow of data it needs to have legitimacy, know and understand the data assets of the membership, and have the authority to negotiate with those data assets on the members behalf.
Decisions around data sharing and understanding the potential consequences are difficult and complex. As an intermediary the cooperative would need to ensure that individual members were able to give informed consent. We have to know what we have and what it does for us, in order to utilise it.
Mechanisms of consent
There already exist mechanisms for the creation of consent. These by and large create the environment for proxy voting in decision making processes. A mechanism such as Liquid Feedback – popularised by the Pirate Parties, where an individual bestows voting rights to a proxy who aligns to their position, is a representative democracy process, the ‘liquid’ element allows proxy rights to be revoked at any point in the decision making process. Other mechanisms might follow along the lines of the Platform Preferences initiative developed by W3C, which sought to create privacy policies that could be understood by browsers which was ultimately considered too difficult to implement. A potentially easier solution might work on the basis of preset preferences based on trusted individuals or the creation of archetype or persona based preferences that people can select.
Can one organisation be representative of the broader range of ethical positions held within a membership structure? For practical reasons the data cooperative might have a high level ethical policy but individuals within the cooperative are empowered to make data sharing choices based on their personal ethical standpoint. This could be enabled by proxy or preset data sharing preferences.
The alternative to having data coops with high level ethical aims that also represent multiple ethical standpoints could be to have smaller federated or distributed niche organisations where individuals could allow the organisation to use their data on their behalf.
Right to personal data
In order for an individual to allow an organisation to use data on their behalf we need to have control over our individual personal data. Legislation in many countries offers a framework about how personal data is used and shared amongst organisations, but these don’t necessarily create a mechanism that allows users to retrieve their data and use it for other purposes. Often within the End User License Agreement (EULA) or Terms of Service that come with software products an individual may find that their data is inexorably tied up with the function of the service. A function of a data cooperative might be to help individuals understand these agreements and add to the commons of knowledge about them.
How would the argument for greater individual data rights be made when service providers see that personal data mediated through their product part of their intellectual property? Work has been done through the midata initiative and the development of personal data passports – where individuals grant rights to organisations to use the data for delivery of service. UK Government has supported this initiative, but has backed away from underpinning the programme with changes in legislation. This lack of regulatory enforcement may limit the efficacy of any initiative that seeks to grant individuals’ rights and agency over their data.
The development of a personal data licence may aid the creation of data cooperatives but the form of the licence and the mechanism for compliance might be weakened without an underpinning regulatory framework. At present there is a certain level of cynicism around voluntary codes of practice where power imbalances exist between stakeholders. The lack of legislation might also create a chilling effect on the ability of data cooperatives to gain the trust of their membership.
Data empowerment is promoted in Project VRM (Vendor Relation Management) developed by Doc Searls at Harvard University. The ability for an individual to have control over their data is an integral component of developing an open market for personal data-based services and theoretically giving more choice. The criticism voiced about midata and Project VRM is that they are too individualistic and focus on economic rather than social transaction with ethical aims. Even with these criticisms the development of a market logic to enable large organisations to engage with the process of individual data empowerment might be beneficial for the long term aims of data cooperatives and for the development of innovative service for social good.
Ultimately if the individual isn’t able to have control over their data or the data derived from them then the function of the cooperative would be inhibited.
Creating value from data
It could emerge that scale could dictate the eventual form of the data cooperative. Many potential clients of a data cooperative might require this, which would see the need to build a data asset that contained upwards of 500,000 users. The Good Data cooperative’s aim is to achieve this scale to become viable.
A challenge that all data cooperatives would face would be how they maintain a relationship with their membership so that service based upon, or value that is extracted from the data is not subject to unforeseen supply-side problems. If a data cooperative represented its membership and entered into licensing relationships with third party organisations on behalf of its membership, what would be reasonable for a client to expect, especially if individual members had the rights to revoke access to data at anytime? With larger scale data cooperatives this may not be too much of a problem as scale has the potential to damp down unforeseen effects. The Good Data proposes to get around these issues by only holding data for a limited amount of time essentially minimising disruptions in data supply by creating a buffer.
Smaller scale data cooperatives, especially ones that are created around single issues may have difficulty in engaging in activity that requires service guarantees. Developing a mechanism for federation, cumulatively creating data at scale might be a potential solution, but creating a federated system of consent may be more difficult to achieve. As suggested previously economic activity might be a low priority for such organisations where the main purpose might be to represent members and create the environment for informed service decisions.
The challenge facing federated data cooperatives and how they interact is undefined. It has been noted that building distributed and federated systems is difficult, and that centralised systems persist due to operational efficiencies. The advent of alternative forms of ‘block chain’ transaction could enable distributed organisations to coexist using ‘rules based’ or algorithmic democracy. But alternative transaction systems and currencies often face challenges when they interface with dominant and established forms of currency and value.
How data cooperatives could practically use these new mechanisms for exchange needs to be explored.
Kristof van Tomme
The next Open Data Manchester is special event tying in with FutureEverything taking place from the 19th – 24th March.
An Open Data Future is an open debate that aims to look under the hood of the open data movement.
Over the past few years open government data has evolved from a niche concern to one that has been embraced by national government, European Commission and other states and organisations around the globe.
It has been advocated that Open Government Data will expose the inner workings of state institutions and thus enable an environment for greater understanding, accountability and efficiency.
The release of open government data has also been seen as an opportunity to add value to national economies through the creation of new services, new intelligence and a more networked economy through the free flow of data.
But ultimately what are the drivers behind this movement, who are the winners and losers and what should a society based upon open practices look like?
Jo Bates – Academic at University of Sheffield
Tim Davies – Researcher and Activist http://www.timdavies.org.uk/about/
Javier Ruiz – Campaigner for the Open Rights Group
Tom Slee – Canadian writer and commentator, author http://www.tomslee.net/
Chaired by Yuwei Lin.
This event is free but likely to reach capacity very quickly so registering here is essential