Data Risks, Trust, and Technology Survey

I am currently conducting research on the public perception of data risks, user trust, and digital technology.

The main goal is to probe what lay audiences perceive as the main risks in their daily use of data-driven technologies and how much they trust public and private organisations.

Don’t miss out on sharing your inout (it is fully anonymised)!

Here is the English version https://fs4.formsite.com/smitsam/4r5jfnga63/index.html

We also have a Dutch versionhttps://fs4.formsite.com/smitsam/1d5lwhpxyy/index.html

And a German version:

https://www.thesistoolspro.com/survey/da22r5f7e9a6bafe97

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

Defining Data Literacy and Building Trust – How to Include User-Perspectives


Earlier this month I gave a (remote) presentation at the EuroIA conference on data literacy in the context of user-centric digital media design. Read the abstract below and watch the presentation on YouTube:

Over the past years, experts and the public expressed vocal criticism on current data practices across domains in the digital economy. Striking examples involving big tech companies have illustrated what can go wrong in terms of public trust and data collection, data analysis and the usage of that data. Professionals are aware of the (economic and legal) root causes and started to critically reflect on their own roles in the process. The goal is to learn from the past and change society’s perception of technology for the better. This implies a redefinition of value and striving for more transparency, respect for privacy needs, and a stronger inclusion of the user in data practices (collection, analysis, outcomes) during the design process. This all amounts to an additional layer of ‘engagement’. 

Trust took a toll and needs repair. However, in order to build sustainable and trust-based relationships in the digital society, it is crucial to understand users’ awareness, perception, and evaluation of the technologies that designers offer to them, i.e. their data literacy. Perspectives can vary considerably between professionals and laymen of what the costs and benefits of a data-driven solution actually are.

The main aim of this talk is to provide a definition of data literacy and how organisations and designers, especially information architects, can identify different types of users with specific data information needs. It explains when users care (or don’t care) about data collection and how professionals can engage in dialogues that foster trust through inclusion. It provides a blueprint for inclusive, user-focused data practices. Several current examples (such as “Corona apps”) serve for illustrating both the necessity and value of such an approach to develop sustainable and ethical relationships with the target audience in the long-term. The talk thus offers a toolset for hands-on research strategies on the matter.

New Masterclass: Introduction to Data-driven Design (For Professionals, Researchers, and Lecturers)

In cooperation with my colleague Erik Hekman (Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht) we designed a new series of masterclasses on the fundamentals of data-driven design that aims at professionals, researchers, and lecturers in the media, communication, and creative business areas. The sessions are scheduled for April 2020 and will take place in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The course prepares you for the unique position as an intermediary between academic knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge. You will build up solid expertise for designing user-centered, data-driven solutions as a facilitator between the digital and human domains. Moreover, it teaches you to be aware of the circumstances in which you need to perform your job.

The main perspective in this series of masterclasses is to link academic thinking to practical performance. Aside from critically discussing the fundamental transformations that shape the digital society, as well as its implications for social and economic interaction, you will learn the practical fundamentals of data science. This includes programming skills in Python to load, save, collect, scrape, process, clean, transform, analyze and visualize data. At the end of the course, you will know how to critically examine the opportunities and the limitations of data, code and basic algorithms from a critical, user-focused perspective.

Every masterclass consists of two parts:

  • Theory where you learn and critically discuss transformations in digital society. This part will be conducted in English.
  • Practical skills where you collect, store, clean, transform data from social media and other internet sources with Python programming (including locating sources of open data), and you know how to extend your skills set by independently learning how to gather data from sources or in ways that were not covered during the masterclasses. The projects can be developed in English or Dutch (or German).

Find more information here on the Masterclass Introduction to Data-Driven Design.

Who Owns Your Data? A Critical Debate with Experts from Governance, Research, Law & Business

This week I had the pleasure of hosting another highly urgent, relevant and insightful debate on the digital transformation of modern society. In collaboration with the Swedish Embassy in Den Haag, we met with practitioners for academia, governance, the legal sector and business and discussed how the concept of data ownerships constantly changes and raises critical ethical questions.

Some of the key points that we distilled were:

  • Data sharing needs a new open-source and open-science inspired approach
  • Data sharing models need to beware of social, political and cultural filters that may delimit diversity of stakeholders
  • Data collection and analysis need to have quality and validation checkpoints throughout the process
  • AI already shapes many people’s lives even thought why are not aware of it
  • AI raises critical questions about reproducibility of results and liability for outcome
  • Blockchain is a tech still in its infancy but use cases go way beyond cryptocurrency
  • Blockchain and similar decentralisation technology create transparency but are not a secure or private per se
  • Blockchain is a technology that only makes sense when combined with other systems and does not solve problems when isolated
  • Overall, human oversight and intervention is paramount for ensuring technology is used in the most beneficial way – this ask for diverse strategic coalitions that unite differentiations stakeholders

 

 

How Does Technology Transform Media and Public Opinion? A Conference with the Swedish Embassy in Den Haag at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht

Last week I had the great privilege to host an event in collaboration with the Swedish embassy in Den Haag, Netherlands, on the highly urgent and somewhat controversial topic of ‘How Does Technology Transform Media & Public Opinion?” at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht.

Seven prolific speakers discussed current developments and challenges that come with the digitalisation of public communication and the rise of online platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The program was based on ‘fireside talks’ between the invited experts from academia, governments, and media; emphasis was placed on three aspects:

 

  1. Technological Foundations and the Revolution of Communication – How Big Tech Changes the Public Sphere

The first section deals with how the rise of Internet technology first provided seemingly endless potentials to new modes of communication and access to the public for individuals and marginalised groups. News Media is no longer the sole source of mass-distributed information.

The mass distribution of Internet access enabled the rise of big tech companiessuch as Google and Facebook, that responded with constantly evolving services to the needs of a highly interconnected digital society. Leading Internet companies have turned into complex multi-purpose platforms that aim for binding users to their brands with a diversity of functions. They create spheres of increasing economic, cultural and political influence.

The implications for freedom of expression become apparent in transformations in media consumption and production. Traditional news media find themselves in a tough spotbetween ethical considerations, political missions, business goals, and an increasingly sceptical audience with access to countless alternative sources for information. Finally, there is the emerging trend to rely more increasingly on artificial intelligence in many web services which comes with an additional baggage of ethical and political questions.

 

  1. Potentials vs. Threats – Assessing the Pro’s and Con’s for Free Speech

On one hand, there are progressive social movements such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter, that make use of the open accessibility of the Web and highlight how marginalised groups apply freedom of expression in the digital public sphere. On the other, the Web is often a highly toxic place where racism, misogynism, trolling, hate speech, misinformation, and cyberbullying thrive; the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ and current forms of right-wing populism partly originated from or made intensive use of online platforms. Groups apply the technologies in order to organize their members, spread the message, contest mainstream politics and media, and thus framing issues from their world views.

Fake news and filter bubbles are often-cited downsides of the rise of social media and personalised web experiences. But is the situation that black and white? It’s a fact that trust in mainstream politics and media is undermined and questioned and the fact that political factions engage in trench warfare and hate speech in various forms is a widespread problem.

Today, when determining freedom of expression one has to consider that no one really lives a completely private life in the age social media and search engines.

The question is also what the role of businesses, journalists/media and governments is in all of this? There are different levels of ‘public’ communication that are affected by current tech trends and obviously all three play central roles the digital public sphere but the relationships between them are changing.

 

  1. Responsibilities and Remedies

The question of responsibility where different social, economic and political factors need to be considered. Tech is not going away; the Internet is not some separate place we got to but has become an integral part of our daily lives in various ways. What is the role of journalism in a data-driven age? How can companies be creative and innovative without losing sight of mid- to long-term consequences? How can they balance ‘what they can do’ with ‘what they should do’? What is the role of regulators and governments? Finally, what are the responsibilities of the user?

You can watch a recording of the session here!

 

 

 

 

Europe, the Crisis, and the Internet – Now available!

 

 

22256528_1658407790845974_7153997000714402534_o.jpgFinally, the printed version of my first monograph about Europe, the Crisis, and the Internet is available via Palgrave MacMillan! It is based on my PhD research, which I conducted at the University of Hull between 2011-2015.

From the publisher’s website:

This book provides a detailed analysis of the transnational web sphere that emerged at the height of the Eurozone crisis between 2011 and 2013. During these turbulent years, a diverse spectrum of professional communicators from the media and political sectors as well as from opinionated individuals on blogs and social media discussed, and thus framed, the crisis in the digital public sphere. The analysis focuses on the various fields of contestation of the crisis that became detectable in the transnational online discourse and shows how conflict and fragmentation shaped political communication in this context. Nguyen concludes that there was not a single crisis but a chain of intersecting and profound political and cultural conflicts triggered by the economic upheavals, which led to the emergence of an extremely dynamic and unstable transnational digital public sphere, where different political and cultural viewpoints collided.

Soon, I will create a section where readers can download all graphs in higher resolution.

Thanks again to all people who supported this project!

New Book: The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere

The past four months have been incredibly busy, especially since I started a new job as a lecturer in Utrecht. Now that I have finally settled in I hope I will find the time to post here more frequently. I will try to place focus on my research, teaching experiences, as well as interesting developments in (transnational) media politics.

Another reason that kept me from writing for this blog was a publication project that drew a lot of energy/attention in its final stages – but now it’s “done”! In a few months our new volume on the digital transformation of the public sphere and its relation to crisis, conflict and migration will be available (published by Palgrave). Co-edited with my former PhD supervisor Dr Athina Karatzogianni and colleague Dr Elisa Serafinelli I am proud to present a brief sneak preview below.

My chapter proposes an integrative methodology for the analysis of transnational web spheres based on my own research on the EU/Eurozone crisis. Also, I contributed to the chapter on the MIG@NET research project. The next major project is now turning my PhD thesis into a book (in talks with Palgrave as a potential publisher).

 

The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere: Conflict, Migration, Crisis, and Culture in Digital Networks

  • Introduction: The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere
    Athina Karatzogianni, Dennis Nguyen and Elisa Serafinelli

 

Part I Theorising Migration, Crisis, Culture and Conflict in the Digital Public Sphere

  • The Migration of Normative Principles and the Digital Construction of Transnational Ethics (Martin Gak)
  • The Digital Golden Dawn: Emergence of A Nationalist-Racist Digital Mainstream (Eugenia Siapera and Mariangela Veikou)
  • From Bulletins to Bullets to Blogs and Beyond: The Karen’s Ongoing Communication War (Geff Green)
  • Online Content Control, Memory, and Community Isolation (Artur Matos Alves)
  • The Critique of Videology: Games and the Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere (Luke O’ Sullivan)

 

Part II Cyberconflict and the Digital Diaspora: Nigeria, India, China, Mexico

  • Veterans of Diaspora Activism: An Overview of ICTs Use Among Nigerian Migrant Networks (Shola Olabode)
  • Online Gender Activism in India and the Participation of the Indian Diaspora 2012-2015 (Adrija Dey)
  • Beyond the Great Wall: Locating Expatriate Media Environments in China (Fan Mai)
  • Social Networks and Communicative Meaning in Mexican Migration Networks in the US (Joel Pedraza Mandujano)

 

Part III Migration and Crisis Discourses in the EU Public Sphere

  • Analysing Transnational Web Spheres: The European Example During the Eurozone Crisis (Dennis Nguyen)
  • Intercultural Conflict and Dialogue in the Transnational Digital Public Sphere: Findings from the MIG@NET Research Project (2010-2013)(Athina Karatzogianni, Oxana Morgunova, Nelli Kambouri, Olga Lafazani, NicosTrimikliniotis, Grigoris Ioannou, and Dennis Nguyen)
  • Understanding the Greek Crisis And Digital Media: A Cyberconflict Approach (Ioanna Ferra)
  • Digital Ethnicities and the (Re-)Construction of Ethnic Identities on Social Media (Slavka Karakusheva)
  • Frontex: Its Human Rights Obligations and the Role of the European Ombudsman (Nikos Vogiatzis)

 

Part IV Digital Culture and Communication Shifts in the Public Sphere

  • Political Selfies: Image Events in the New Media Field
    (Achilleas Karadimitriou and Anastasia Veneti)
  • Italian Migrants and Photosharing in the UK (Elisa Serafinelli)
  • The Politics of Transformation: Selfie Production of the Visually Marginalised (Patricia Routh)
  • YouTube, Migrant Rappers and the Early Cinema Aesthetics: Is there a Digital Public Sphere? (Giacomo Nencioni)
  • Banoptikon: Walking Through a Dystopia – European Project MIG@NET’s Digital Game (Ilias Marmaras)

 

BTW: Follow me on Twitter!

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

Quick update – not dead, just distracted

…by preparing my move to Utrecht where I will be working as a lecturer from this month on. As soon as I have finalised the transition to my first work placement after completing my PhD I will post a brief summary of my “post-doc job-hunt” (i.e. an overview of my experiences and advice for all of you who are close to finishing or already have passed their viva).

I was also busy with some other projects, such as writing for a new online magazine with a focus on international and European politics: Vocal EuropeYou can read two of my analytical pieces on the Eurozone crisis as well as migration crisis there; both topics continue to dominate most discussions in the transnational public sphere on the continent.

The past few weeks saw heightened activity in the Eurozone crisis discourse, catalysed by the European lenders’ tough stance towards Athens and Alexis Tsipras’ subsequent call for a referendum on the last bailout. Once more, the extremely volatile relation between national sovereignty and transnational “solidarity” almost led to the infamous “Grexit” and a breakdown of European cooperation. Interestingly, the quite hostile dispute between the Greek government and their European counterparts also reinvigorated the left’s case for Euroscepticism – a political domain that was long a stronghold of the (extreme) right. And of course, there is the very peculiar case of Yannis Varoufakis – former Greek finance minister who held his post only shortly (there must be a reason why academics often fail in politics) – who seems to be an iridescent example for increasing personalisation in the otherwise extremely complex and confusing crisis discourse. I will soon post a brief article on the latter phenomenon by comparing him and Tsipras with their German counterparts, their predecessors, and other European politicians.

The cover image shows Hong Kong seen from Victoria’s Peek, which I visited for personal and professional reasons in June.

The Eurozone Crisis – the (Media) Drama continues

This is just a quick post since I am currently very busy with writing applications, articles, and getting books published (the usual “post doc” stuff). This is also the reason why I didn’t find the time to update this blog lately, despite so much going on right now in transnational Europe.

So why this update now? Well, it looks like the Eurozone crisis and the Greek dilemma are back on the top of the news agenda across the European media landscape. In recent weeks the transnational discourse, or more precisely, the blame-game between EU member-states, focused on the still unresolved migration crisis and relatively limited attention was given to the continuously swelling financial- and debt crisis (though it was always there). However, the political row between Greece’s creditors and the current Syriza government has yet again gained in momentum with the threat of a “Grexit” allegedly closer than ever (which has been repeatedly claimed over the past five years and thus has lost some of its actual shock potential).

A closer look at the different comment pieces, analyses, and reports reveals that actually no new arguments, visions, or plans have entered the discourse. The only real difference to the years 2010 to 2014 is that Tsipras, Varoufakis & co. are much less compliant than their predecessors – which is also a factor to consider in the intensifying ideological-cultural conflicts that are currently unfolding in the shadow of the economic-fiscal dispute. Just to give you a few examples for how the crisis made it back into the top news, here’s a selection of stories that were published on different international and national news media websites this week:

The Guardian Online provides yet another “live blog” on the latest developments and cites the Bank of Greece in its headline, which warns about an “uncontrollable crisis without bailout deal” (the thriller continues!).

The Wall Street Journal picks up the same apocalyptic quote for its headline.

This morning on German Zeit Online economist Hans-Werner Sinn repeats his argument that Greece was better off out the Eurozone and explains why Europe was on the wrong track for the past five years. However, he also says that Greece should have the opportunity to return to the Eurozone after it has stabilised its economy and introduced necessary reforms.

Meanwhile, reports on EKathimerini show that the Greek media closely observe political developments and -statements in Germany, where “Merkel’s Bavarian allies” allegedly said that “Greeks act like clowns in debt talks”.

Foreign Policy’s Daniel Altman argues that the Greek bailout are “incredibly stupid” due to their focus on short-term solutions for longterm problems – an approach that was doomed to fail.

The British Independent focuses on Tsipras’ claims that the IMF had a “criminal responsibility” for the rather intricate affair the Greek government and its creditors find themselves in.

Peter Eavis of the New York Times has a slightly more optimistic view than most on current events  when he argues that a “Greek exit would shake, but most likely not shatter, the Eurozone”.

Whether this week is actually more decisive for the Eurozone’s future than any other remains to be seen but the increased activity in the transnational web sphere at least indicates that the dispute between Athens and its creditors will probably return to the centre stage of the European public sphere.

Premediation in the Eurozone Crisis

The seemingly never-ending Eurozone crisis made it into the news again this week with various media commentators arguing that the “Grexit” was (maybe) finally here. After all, the current Greek government seems yet again struggling to meet its “obligations” towards its European lenders, mainly represented by the ECB. A crisis meeting has already been announced, but it remains to be seen whether it will produce a real breakthrough. The month of April, so it seems, will decide over Greece’s future  in- or outside the Eurozone. Déjà vu anyone?

The same had been said about January 2015, when the majority of Greeks resisted to the prevailing austerity drive by voting for radical left Syriza. In fact, similar claims about an end to Greece’s membership in the single currency union, if not even to the Euro’s continued existence as such, were made whenever the acting Greek government had to report to their international creditors over the past four years (see here, here, here, and here).

A potential “Grexit”, its probable impact, and an eventual collapse of the Eurozone have been repeatedly discussed by a variety of political commentators as well as economists – and for many it has long lost its “shock effect”. Not that anything has really changed in regards to the fundamental, potentially dramatic -and probably traumatic- consequences it would have for the single currency union and the political framework of the EU altogether.

However, it has become “the new normal” (Grusin 2010, citing brilliant comic artist Art Spiegelman) to live in an economic climate of constant crisis, fear for the future, depression, lack of innovation (not only in an economic but also political respect!) etc., just as Western societies have somehow accommodated themselves with a constant fear of religious terror since 9/11 (ibid). Against this background it is not really surprising that more optimistic assessments of the Eurozone’s future appear rather unconvincing to many.

What’s interesting here from an analytical perspective on the EU crisis debate in the media is that almost any thinkable outcome of the crisis has been brought up in the transnational public sphere – and new analyses, evaluations, as well as prognoses are added on an almost daily basis. These seem to differ only slightly in their general narratives, which can be broadly separated into two categories: stories about the end of the Euro and stories about its eventual survival and/or success. However different both are in their general prognoses for Europe’s future, they seem to fulfil a similar function: they are attempts to reduce the level of surprise and to provide orientation for future actions.

Indeed, it seems that there hardly is a scenario that has not been thought through yet and the spectrum of expectable outcomes for the crisis were brought down to a handful of possibilities. Economists, political commentators, journalists and other public communicators are central drivers of this process since they, willingly or unwillingly, pre-fabricate “potential futures” through media communication (pre-mediated). These are repeated over and over again with small updates (re-mediated).

Premediation and the Eurozone Crisis – a Very brief Overview

Richard Grusin, Professor of English at Wayne State University, describes this process as ‘premediation’ (2010: 38), a logic ‘in which the future has always been pre-mediated‘ (ibid, original italics). According to him, in today’s highly mediatised society public communicators engaged in a style of discourse that moved away from the past and present to a mode of communication that placed increasing emphasis on “what could happen next (and what could come after that)”. Different scenarios and their outcomes are played through in public discourse by e.g. journalists, government representatives, experts etc. so that no eventual outcome comes truly unexpected.

Think of the different scenarios that exist for the outcome of austerity politics in the European context: while leading German politicians argue that fiscal discipline will lead to an economically stable, prosperous future, dissident voices claim that the same could actually increase the suffering caused by economic hardship across struggling Eurozone countries.

However, premeditation should not be confused with prediction, since premeditation served not for finding an ideal “result” to a specific development:

Unlike prediction, premeditation is not about getting the future right. In fact it is precisely the proliferation of competing and often contradictory future scenarios that enables premediation to prevent the experience of a traumatic future by generating and maintaining a low level of anxiety as a kind of affective prophylactic. Premediation is not like a weather forecast, which aims to predict correctly the weather for tomorrow, or the weekend or the week ahead. To premediate the weather would be to try imagine all of the possible scenarios that might conceivably arise so that the weather could never come as a surprise (ibid).

Grusin uses the US media landscape after 9/11 and during the War on Terror as his primary empirical example to describe the mechanisms of premeditation but his observations are transferable to other crises and conflicts, including the current Eurozone crisis. The political implications and the entailed clash of different future scenarios ingrained in framing processes, which dominate public communication, are of particular relevance for understanding the transnational public discourse in Europe:

To think of premeditation as characterizing the media regime of post-9/11 America is therefore to be concerned not with the truth or falsity of specific future scenarios but with widespread proliferation of premediated futures. Premediation entails the generation of possible future scenarios or possibilities which may come true or which may not, but which work in any event to guide action (or shape public sentiment) in the present. These scenarios are perpetuated both by governmental actors and by the formal and informal media […] (ibid: 47)

Premediation can serve as an instrument for framing a particular problem in a very specific way in order to achieve concrete political goals; claiming to know how the future will turn out often comes with precise agendas for how to organise current social, economic, and political orders. Seen from this perspective, the transnational public sphere currently takes the shape of a conflict-loaded communication sphere in which polarising scenarios compete with each other; this turns the crisis into a contest about the future as much as about the present.

There are plenty of examples, which include the debates on austerity/anti-austerity, integration and sovereignty, isolation and solidarity, Eurobonds, the financial transaction tax, bailout programmes, structural reforms etc. Once the future has been pre-mediated, it is instantly fed into the constant flow of remediation, i.e. the pattern of repetition in public discourse which creates an atmosphere of constant insecurity and anxiety that seems to characterise  the “new normal” for many people in Europe.

References

Grusin, R. (2010): Premedation. Affect and Mediality after 9/11, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.