FoI Request: Amount paid per year to repay Slavery Abolition Act loan

In response to a story repor­ted via a num­ber of news sites and explor­ing a thread in my own research, I sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of Inform­a­tion (FoI) request to Her Majesty’s Treas­ury on the 7th April. In brief, I reques­ted fur­ther details on the amount paid per year to repay the Slavery Abol­i­tion Act loan, a loan taken by the UK gov­ern­ment in 1834 to com­pensate’ slave own­ers for their loss of prop­erty’. Shock­ingly, this loan was being repaid up until 2015 by UK tax­pay­ers.

I made my request using the amaz­ing What­DoThey­Know site. I’ve included the text from my request below for con­text.
Screen shot of written response by HM Treasury to FOI request

To Her Majesty’s Treas­ury,

As widely repor­ted, in 1833 – 35 [1] the UK gov­ern­ment bor­rowed £20m, 40% of its nation­al budget, to recom­pense” slave own­ers for los­ing their prop­erty” [2] — under the Slavery Abol­i­tion Act. On 9 Feb­ru­ary 2018, HM Treas­ury announced (via Twit­ter) that this loan had been paid in full. A related FOI request that HM Treas­ury respon­ded to on 9 Feb­ru­ary 2018 sets the date of the loans con­sol­id­a­tion’ to be the 1 Feb­ru­ary 2015: The 4% Con­sol­id­ated Loan was redeemed on 1 Feb­ru­ary 2015” [3].

Under the Free­dom of Inform­a­tion act, I request fur­ther details of this loan. Spe­cific­ally, I request the annu­al amount paid per year since 1833 – 35.

I also request to total sum paid to repay the loan, includ­ing interest.

Yours faith­fully,
Alex Taylor
Lon­don

1. From the doc­u­ment­a­tion avail­able, it’s unclear wheth­er the loan began in 1833 or 1835.

2. This was covered by a num­ber of news organ­isa­tions. Two examples from the Guard­i­an fol­low:
 — https://​www​.the​guard​i​an​.com/​c​o​m​m​e​n​t​i​sfre...
 — https://​www​.the​guard​i​an​.com/​c​o​m​m​e​n​t​i​sfre...

3. https://​www​.gov​.uk/​g​o​v​e​r​n​m​e​n​t​/​p​u​b​l​i​c​atio...

Hav­ing left their writ­ten response to the last day of the 20 work­ing days usu­ally allot­ted, HM Treas­ury replied with a some­what muddled mes­sage offer­ing some details, but not fully answer­ing my request. Some equi­val­ent to HM Treas­ury does not hold information/records” was used four times in a one‐page response:

HM Treas­ury does not hold inform­a­tion with­in the scope of your request.”

HM Treas­ury does not hold records dat­ing from this peri­od.”

HM Treas­ury does not hold any detailed inform­a­tion on the struc­ture or amounts of repay­ments...”

HM Treas­ury does not hold inform­a­tion on the total interest paid...”

The let­ter from HM Treas­ury is avail­able via What­DoThey­Know here.

I will be con­tinu­ing this research and share any fur­ther inform­a­tion I’m able to obtain.

Papers presented at CHI 18

Delighted to see the two great papers I con­trib­uted to being presen­ted at CHI 2018 in Montreal.

Ari Schle­sing­er, Kenton O’Hara and Alex Taylor (2018) Lets Talk about Race: Iden­tity, Chat­bots, and AI. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Anja Thieme, Cyn­thia L. Ben­nett, Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell and Alex Taylor (2018) I can do everything but see!” – How People with Vis­ion Impair­ments Nego­ti­ate their Abil­it­ies in Social Con­texts. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Abstract — Why is it so hard for chat­bots to talk about race? This work explores how the biased con­tents of data­bases, the syn­tact­ic focus of nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cessing, and the opaque nature of deep learn­ing algorithms cause chat­bots dif­fi­culty in hand­ling race‐talk. In each of these areas, the ten­sions between race and chat­bots cre­ate new oppor­tun­it­ies for people and machines. By mak­ing the abstract and dis­par­ate qual­it­ies of this prob­lem space tan­gible, we can devel­op chat­bots that are more cap­able of hand­ling race‐talk in its many forms. Our goal is to provide the HCI com­munity with ways to begin address­ing the ques­tion, how can chat­bots handle race‐talk in new and improved ways?
Abstract — This research takes an ori­ent­a­tion to visu­al impair­ment (VI) that does not regard it as fixed or determ­ined alone in or through the body. Instead, we con­sider (dis)ability as pro­duced through inter­ac­tions with the envir­on­ment and con­figured by the people and tech­no­logy with­in it. Spe­cific­ally, we explore how abil­it­ies become nego­ti­ated through video eth­no­graphy with six VI ath­letes and spec­tat­ors dur­ing the Rio 2016 Para­lympics. We use gen­er­ated in‐depth examples to identi­fy how tech­no­logy can be a mean­ing­ful part of abil­ity nego­ti­ations, emphas­iz­ing how these embed into the social inter­ac­tions and lives of people with VI. In con­trast to treat­ing tech­no­logy as a solu­tion to a sens­ory defi­cit’, we under­stand it to sup­port the tri­an­gu­la­tion pro­cess of sense‐making through pro­vi­sion of appro­pri­ate addi­tion­al inform­a­tion. Fur­ther, we sug­gest that tech­no­logy should not try and replace human assist­ance, but instead enable people with VI to bet­ter identi­fy and inter­act with oth­er people in‐situ.

Two fully‐funded PhDs

We’re excited to be offer­ing two fully fun­ded PhD Stu­dent­ships in the HCID Centre at City. See:

Beneath the archive
Under­stand­ing users’ men­tal mod­els of digit­al archives
to inform user‐centred design for human­it­ies research
Applic­a­tion dead­line 20 May 2018.

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence for Teams
The Future of Col­lab­or­at­ive Work in Organ­isa­tion­al Life
Applic­a­tion dead­line 27 May 2018.

From the Picket Line

For those of us in UK aca­demia, it’s been impossible to miss the strikes over the last four weeks, with aca­dem­ics from across the coun­try stand­ing their ground for a fair and equit­able pen­sion. There are many incred­ibly detail­ing the devel­op­ments and explain­ing how this is about for a walk of life that just doesn’t have to be sub­ject to the warped val­ues of the Neo‐liberal pro­ject.

Per­son­ally, what I’ve found inspir­a­tion­al is the cov­er­age from the pick­et line and the industry of oth­ers. Nat­ur­ally, there have been the marches, the ban­ners, and the teach‐ins. But, with such gen­er­at­ive care and warmth, what has brought spe­cial cheer to me have been the many out­stand­ing examples of cre­at­ive impulse: of craft (like that recor­ded by Jac­ob Phelps below), of design (from Katja May, Kat Jung­nick­el, etc. at Gold­smiths), and of poetry (no less from the fab­ulous Michael Rosen).

Giv­en it would be hard to add to all the amaz­ing com­ment­ary on the pen­sion strikes, what I want to pay spe­cial homage to here is the dance (and a little song) from the pick­et line. Brows­ing the not‐so‐distant twit­ter archive, I’ve tried to dig out a few out the high­lights from the last few weeks that can’t help bring a smile to my face. It must be said, that among all the won­der­ful examples, Lan­caster goes gold hands down for the PEF (Pick­et Excel­lence Frame­work), and Imo­gen Tyler deserves a spe­cial award of excel­lence for her unwaver­ing com­mit­ment to impact dis­sem­in­a­tion, Twitter‐wide.

Here’s to all the dan­cers (and musi­cians) on the pick­et line

For example, from Jason Hick­el, Dav­id Kerno­han, via Medi­um, etc. Kar­en Gregory has put togeth­er a list of UCU Strike Read­ings. Lucy Robinson’s strike scrap­book also deserves a spe­cial men­tion.
See by Six points on the eve of the UCU strike Jam­ie Wood­cock

PhD studentships at City

Just try­ing to pro­mote as widely as pos­sible:

My School has just announced ten PhD stu­dent­ships. I’d love to have strong applic­a­tions from pro­spect­ive stu­dents want­ing to join the Centre for Human‐Centered Design (HCID).

There’s a list of research top­ics here. The dead­line is 25th April 2018. For the full advert, see here.

Per­son­ally, I’m very open to sug­ges­tions on top­ic. It would be thrill­ing to see pro­pos­als for crit­ic­al and per­haps mater­i­al­ist ori­ent­a­tions to tech­nos­cience. Oh, and fem­in­ist, inter­sec­tion­al think­ing would be high on my wish list.

Whatever the per­sua­sion, if you have friends, stu­dents, col­leagues, etc. inter­ested in doing some­thing excit­ing, please put them in touch.

CHI 2018 papers.

Anja Thieme, Cyn­thia L. Ben­nett, Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell and Alex Taylor (2018) I can do everything but see!” – How People with Vis­ion Impair­ments Nego­ti­ate their Abil­it­ies in Social Con­texts. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Ari Schle­sing­er, Kenton O’Hara and Alex Taylor (2018) Lets Talk about Race: Iden­tity, Chat­bots, and AI. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Very happy to have con­trib­uted to two papers being presen­ted at the upcom­ing CHI con­fer­ence this year. One reports on work with the blind and vis­ion impaired a few of us have been involved in dif­fer­ent ways (see here). Broadly, we’ve used the piece to reflect on the rela­tions between vis­ion impair­ment and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, and set out dir­ec­tions for a pos­sible design space.

The second paper picks up on a new theme for me, but one closely related to past reflec­tions and design work around machine intel­li­gence. With the fant­ast­ic Ari Schle­sing­er (GA Tech) lead­ing the research, we exam­ine the chal­lenges faced in hand­ling race talk (and racism) in human‐bot inter­ac­tions. Tak­ing both Tai AI and the black­list as start­ing points, we take ser­i­ously the com­pu­ta­tion­al under­pin­nings of chat bots and con­ver­sa­tion­al agents, to under­score the role they have in sus­tain­ing troub­ling racial cat­egor­ies and the con­di­tions they make pos­sible for more just and equit­able ways for­ward.

Abstract — This research takes an ori­ent­a­tion to visu­al impair­ment (VI) that does not regard it as fixed or determ­ined alone in or through the body. Instead, we con­sider (dis)ability as pro­duced through inter­ac­tions with the envir­on­ment and con­figured by the people and tech­no­logy with­in it. Spe­cific­ally, we explore how abil­it­ies become nego­ti­ated through video eth­no­graphy with six VI ath­letes and spec­tat­ors dur­ing the Rio 2016 Para­lympics. We use gen­er­ated in‐depth examples to identi­fy how tech­no­logy can be a mean­ing­ful part of abil­ity nego­ti­ations, emphas­iz­ing how these embed into the social inter­ac­tions and lives of people with VI. In con­trast to treat­ing tech­no­logy as a solu­tion to a sens­ory defi­cit’, we under­stand it to sup­port the tri­an­gu­la­tion pro­cess of sense‐making through pro­vi­sion of appro­pri­ate addi­tion­al inform­a­tion. Fur­ther, we sug­gest that tech­no­logy should not try and replace human assist­ance, but instead enable people with VI to bet­ter identi­fy and inter­act with oth­er people in‐situ.
Abstract — Why is it so hard for chat­bots to talk about race? This work explores how the biased con­tents of data­bases, the syn­tact­ic focus of nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cessing, and the opaque nature of deep learn­ing algorithms cause chat­bots dif­fi­culty in hand­ling race‐talk. In each of these areas, the ten­sions between race and chat­bots cre­ate new oppor­tun­it­ies for people and machines. By mak­ing the abstract and dis­par­ate qual­it­ies of this prob­lem space tan­gible, we can devel­op chat­bots that are more cap­able of hand­ling race‐talk in its many forms. Our goal is to provide the HCI com­munity with ways to begin address­ing the ques­tion, how can chat­bots handle race‐talk in new and improved ways?

Audrey, Anyone?

An Audrey in my office

I just dug out my old Audrey, a com­puter appli­ance designed for the home released in 2000 and then canned in 2001. What a shame to think a device with such thought­fully designed soft­ware and hard­ware was so quickly releg­ated to the dust‐pile of e‐history. Any­way, see­ing Audrey reminded me Laurel Swan and I presen­ted a paper on Audrey at 4S in 2005 titled Audrey, Any­one?” The abstract is below. We did man­age to inter­view some of the ori­gin­al design­ers on the team includ­ing Ray Win­ninger. How­ever, things got the bet­ter of us and we nev­er wrote it up in fin­ished form. Here’s the abstract we wrote:
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Wiki­pe­dia has an entry, here.
A short chapter we came across in doing back­ground research on Audrey is Leslie Regan Share’s The gen­der­ing of a com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­logy: the short life and death of Audrey”, in Out of the Ivory Tower: Fem­in­ist Research for Social Change, edited by: Mar­tinez, Andrea and Stu­art, Meryn. Toronto: Sumach Press.

Paper presented at Assets

I’m very happy to have been a part of the work lead­ing up to a paper presen­ted at Assets 2017, the ACM con­fer­ence on Access­ible Com­put­ing. Report­ing on work from a group of us at Microsoft Research, the paper describes an ori­ent­a­tion to our stud­ies with the blind and vis­ion impaired.

Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell, Anupama Dharesh­war, Kev­in Doherty, Anja Thieme, and Alex Taylor. 2017. Ima­gin­ing Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Applic­a­tions with People with Visu­al Dis­ab­il­it­ies using Tact­ile Ideation. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 19th Inter­na­tion­al ACM SIGACCESS Con­fer­ence on Com­puters and Access­ib­il­ity (ASSETS 17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 81 – 90. DOI.

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What are you reading?

Happy to have the short con­ver­sa­tion I had with @danielarosner pub­lished in Inter­ac­tions Magazine’s reg­u­lar What are you read­ing?” column. We exper­i­ment with a brief inter­change about two won­der­ful books: Anna Tsing’s The Mush­room at the End of the World and Sarah Ahmed’s Liv­ing a Fem­in­ist Life.

Below is the long‐winded ver­sion before tidy­ing and edit­ing.
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Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mush­room at the End of the World: On the Pos­sib­il­ity of Life in Cap­it­al­ist Ruins. Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Press.
Ahmed, S. (2017). Liv­ing a Fem­in­ist Life. Duke Uni­ver­sity Press.