Reading Not just neoliberalism...”

Ber­man, E. P. (2014). Not Just Neo­lib­er­al­ism: Eco­nom­iz­a­tion in US Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Policy. Sci­ence, Tech­no­logy & Human Val­ues, 39(3), 397 – 431.

not-just-neo

The title of this paper says it all really. It’s good though to have a cogent argu­ment about the rela­tions between ideo­logy, policy and the changes in how sci­ence is being done. I for one very eas­ily slip into an accus­at­ory refrain when talk­ing about and usu­ally cri­ti­cising what I’ve seen to be the neo­lib­er­al (non)interventionist and policy dir­ec­tion in edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. Eliza­beth Ber­man presents a much more meas­ured pos­i­tion and con­vinces me that it’s bet­ter under­stood as an eco­nom­iz­a­tion, as she calls it, where the broad­er shift is towards pri­or­it­ising sci­entif­ic research and innov­a­tion vis-a-vis the eco­nomy and spe­cific­ally see­ing them as eco­nom­ic inputs. This recog­nises the ten­sions and com­plic­a­tions and the com­pet­ing interests that have run through the chan­ging status of the sci­ences (in the US, but sim­il­arly, I think, in the UK). 

Some­thing I think Ber­man leaves open is the rela­tion­ship between sci­ence and innov­a­tion. She makes it clear that sci­ence and innov­a­tion become inex­or­ably linked when sci­ence is seen in eco­nom­ic terms. I want, though, to bet­ter under­stand the nex­us. Indeed, but con­flat­ing sci­ence and tech­no­logy (“S&T” as Ber­man refers to it), I think there are fur­ther com­plic­a­tions here that need unrav­el­ing, ones point­ing to the entan­gle­ments of sci­ence and tech­no­logy, and where pro­gress or innov­a­tion sits between (or around) them. Can we talk of tech­no­logy without innov­a­tion? If S&T are two-parts of a unit, how can we dis­en­tangle innov­a­tion?

Published Data and life on the street

We’ve pub­lished a short com­ment­ary on the Ten­ison Road pro­ject in the new Big Data & Soci­ety journ­al. Down­load it here (open access).

data_and_life

Taylor, A. S., Lind­ley, S., Regan, T., & Sweeney, D. (2014). Data and life on the street. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(2).

Abstract: What does the abund­ance of data and pro­lif­er­a­tion of data-making meth­ods mean for the ordin­ary per­son, the per­son on the street? And, what could they come to mean? In this paper, we present an over­view of a year-long pro­ject to exam­ine just such ques­tions and com­plic­ate, in some ways, what it is to ask them. The pro­ject is a col­lect­ive exer­cise in which we – a mix­ture of social sci­ent­ists, design­ers and makers – and those liv­ing and work­ing on one street in Cam­bridge (UK), Ten­ison Road, are work­ing to think through how data might be mater­i­al­ised and come to mat­ter. The pro­ject aims to bet­ter under­stand the spe­cificit­ies and con­tin­gen­cies that arise when data is pro­duced and used in place. Mid-way through the pro­ject, we use this com­ment­ary to give some back­ground to the work and detail one or two of the troubles we have encountered in put­ting loc­ally rel­ev­ant data to work. We also touch on a meth­od­o­lo­gic­al stand­point we are work­ing our way into and through, one that we hope com­plic­ates the sep­ar­a­tions between sub­ject and object in data-making and opens up pos­sib­il­it­ies for a gen­er­at­ive refig­ur­ing of the man­i­fold rela­tions.

on Leakiness and creepiness in app space”

I recently had an email exchange with Irina Shk­lovski in which she kindly sent me the paper she presen­ted at the CHI con­fer­ence this year. It’s a great paper, with some care­fully thought through insights into the data we pro­duce and (often inad­vert­ently) share when using smart phones. 

Irina Shk­lovski, Scott D. Main­war­ing, Halla Hrund Skúladót­tir, and Höskul­dur Bor­gthorsson. 2014. Leak­i­ness and creep­i­ness in app space: per­cep­tions of pri­vacy and mobile app use. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 32nd annu­al ACM con­fer­ence on Human factors in com­put­ing sys­tems (CHI 14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2347 – 2356. 

The paper got me think­ing about some broad­er (and long-standing) issues I’ve been work­ing through myself related to the researcher’s agen­tial (and often inad­vert­ent) role in empir­ic­al research. What fol­lows are some slightly amended com­ments I’ve shared with Irina. (more…)

Reading The sentient” city and what it may portend

A ram­bling piece in Big Data & Soci­ety by Nigel Thrift: The sen­tient’ city and what it may por­tend.

sentient_city

Wasn’t expect­ing the digres­sion into spir­its and per­form­ance art, but I do like Thrift’s con­tinu­al efforts to write about expans­ive human/agent capa­cit­ies and extend­ing the .

...the claim is being made that, as com­pu­ta­tion­al objects have developed, cit­ies are able to take on new forms of vital­ity (Stern, 2010), forms of vital­ity which can devel­op over time. Per­haps one way in which we might con­sider this ques- tion is pre­cisely through look­ing at how vital­ity devel- ops when com­pu­ta­tion­al things are expli­citly included in the con­tours of exper­i­ence. Then it becomes clear that it has only gradu­ally aris­en, line by line, algorithm by algorithm, pro­gram by pro­gram.

Thirft, N. (2014). The sen­tient” city and what it may por­tend. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(1).

Reading Data matter(s)

Wilson, M. W. (2011). Data matter(s): legit­im­acy, cod­ing, and qualifications-of-life. Envir­on­ment and Plan­ning D: Soci­ety and Space, 29(5), 857 – 872.
data-matters


Really help­ful paper from Mat­thew Wilson on the inter­ming­lings of data and geo­graphy. Although more con­cen­trated on a par­tic­u­lar aspect of com­munity life (namely report­ing prob­lems or dam­age to loc­al facil­it­ies etc.), the paper has some strong rel­ev­ances for the Ten­ison Road pro­ject. Espe­cially use­ful are Wilson’s thoughts on mat­ter­ing in rela­tion to fem­in­ist tech­nos­cience and of course 
Wilson cites:
Har­away D J, 1991 Simi­ans, Cyborgs, and Women: The Rein­ven­tion of Nature (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1997 Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Fem­in­ism and Tech­nos­cience (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1999, Know­ledges and the ques­tion of alli­ances”, in Know­ledges and the Ques­tion of Alli­ances: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Nancy Hartsock, Donna Har­away, and Dav­id Har­vey (Kane Hall, Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Seattle, WA)

#datapolicy

After a tre­mend­ous about of work with Lara Hou­s­ton, I’m delighted to have finally gone live with our data policy site: data​-policy​.info. It attempts to detail, in vari­ous formats and cuts, the dis­cus­sions at the day of dia­logues on data, policy and civic life, held at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge. More than this though, we want the site to pro­mote fur­ther dis­cus­sion and expand the ways we might think of the rela­tions between data, social/civic life, and policy. For me, the inspir­a­tion here has been the work a few of us have been doing with Ten­ison Road in cam­bridge and a community’s efforts to make sense of and use its data. I’d like to think some­thing small and loc­al could make a dif­fer­ence in these big dis­cus­sions

Dialogues on data, policy and civic life

direction_BW

Next Tues­day a few of us at Microsoft Research are host­ing a day-long dia­logue to dis­cuss the inter­ming­lings of data and social/civic life. We’re bring­ing togeth­er a mix of social the­or­ists, com­ment­at­ors and policy advisers with the hope of draw­ing out pos­sib­il­it­ies for doing policy mak­ing (as well as tech­no­logy design) dif­fer­ently. Our pre­amble for the event fol­lows (a print­able PDF can be down­loaded here): (more…)

On Simone’s people as infrastructure’

People as Infrastructure

 

A few of us work­ing at the inter­sec­tion of data, civic­me­dia and cit­izen­ship are tak­ing a look at this art­icle by Abdou­Maliq Simone. Some ram­bling com­ments fol­low:

First, just a short point about style: I’m delighted to see Simone’s unapo­lo­get­ic use of rich descrip­tions of Jo’berg’s streets. They are in strik­ing con­trast to what I see to be the stand­ard eth­no­graph­ic account in HCI papers. What I find tedi­ous is the usu­al pre­amble in HCI works — explain­ing meth­od — and then the use of par­ti­cipants’ quotes as a kind of proof’ of par­tic­u­lar points. Also, both point to a curi­ous idea of what it means to demon­strate evid­ence or proof. Simone both­ers with none of this. He gets straight to the stor­ies, to the rich descrip­tions of inner city Jo’berg and its under­belly. (more…)

Talk at Austerity Futures?”

Abstract for upcom­ing talk at Aus­ter­ity Futures? sem­in­ar 4.

houses long B&W

[Big] data futures, from the street.

Stor­ies about big data are every­where. We’re being told how sig­ni­fic­ant the impact of big data will be on our lives by all kinds of people in the know. And yet I’ve been grap­pling with what (big) data might really mean to people who aren’t fully signed up mem­bers of the diger­ati, those shapers, makers and mod­ers of tech­no­lo­gic­al futures. I’ve pondered, in short, on two simple ques­tions: how does data mat­ter to people on the street’, and how might they want it to mat­ter. In this talk, I’ll reflect on a pro­ject we’ve been build­ing up at Microsoft Research to begin work­ing through these ques­tions. I want to dis­cuss our efforts to ground a tech­no­lo­gic­al ima­gin­ary in ordin­ary life or, to put it anoth­er way, to enable a pro­duct­ive re-imagining of big data futures’ — to coin a phrase — from the street’. I’ll describe how we’ve taken this chal­lenge quite lit­er­ally. Just over three weeks ago we began work­ing with one street in Cam­bridge, Ten­ison Road. For at least a year, we plan to think through what data means for the Ten­ison Road com­munity and in some cases to enable ways for the com­munity to inter­vene in the future ima­gin­ar­ies. Although this won’t be a talk or for that mat­ter a pro­ject about aus­ter­ity, I cer­tainly think it is one in which aus­ter­ity and its reper­cus­sions will come to mat­ter. My aim, then, will be to reflect on how this is a pro­ject con­cerned with futures, futures that are heav­ily con­cen­trated in the minds of the tech­no­lo­gic­al elite, but also some that are more ped­es­tri­an that might just offer altern­at­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies for what (big) data could mean and what we might do with it.

web: ten​ison​road​.com | email: research@​tenisonroad.​com | twit­ter: @tenisonroad