Current Berkman People and Projects

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

June 23, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy

Subtitle

with the author, Berkman Klein Center Faculty Associate Tressie McMillan Cottom

Teaser

A former insider discloses the story behind for-profit schools to explain the exorbitant price tags, the questionable credentials, and the lose-lose options for Americans seeking a better life.

Event Date

Jun 23 2017 12:00pm to Jun 23 2017 12:00pm
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Friday, June 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Check back here soon for audio and video from the talk!

 

This event is being co-sponsored by the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

More than two million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges, from the small family-run operations to the behemoths brandished on billboards, subway ads, and late-night commercials. These schools have been around just as long as their bucolic not-for-profit counterparts, yet shockingly little is known about why they have expanded so rapidly in recent years—during the so-called Wall Street era of for-profit colleges.

In Lower Ed Tressie McMillan Cottom—a bold and rising public scholar, herself once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry to show precisely how it is part and parcel of the growing inequality plaguing the country today. McMillan Cottom discloses the shrewd recruitment and marketing strategies that these schools deploy and explains how, despite the well-documented predatory practices of some and the campus closings of others, ending for-profit colleges won’t end the vulnerabilities that made them the fastest growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century. And she doesn’t stop there.

With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, McMillan Cottom delivers a comprehensive view of postsecondary for-profit education by illuminating the experiences of the everyday people behind the shareholder earnings, congressional battles, and student debt disasters. The relatable human stories in Lower Ed—from mothers struggling to pay for beauty school to working class guys seeking “good jobs” to accomplished professionals pursuing doctoral degrees—illustrate that the growth of for-profit colleges is inextricably linked to larger questions of race, gender, work, and the promise of opportunity in America.

Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed tells the story of the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. It is a story about broken social contracts; about education transforming from a public interest to a private gain; and about all Americans and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.

About Tressie

Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center. She is co-editor of two volumes on technological change, inequality and institutions: "Digital Sociologies" (2016, UK Bristol Policy Press) and "For-Profit Universities: The Shifting Landscape of Marketized Higher Education" (2017, Palgrave MacMillan). Her book "Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy" (2017, The New Press) has received national and international acclaim. Professor Cottom serves on dozens of academic and philanthropic boards and publishes widely on issues of inequality, work, higher education and technology. You can read more at www.tressiemc.com. 

Links

by candersen at June 23, 2017 04:00 PM

June 20, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Join Our 2018 AI Assembly Cohort!

Subtitle

At the Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab

Teaser

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the MIT Media Lab seek technologists with diverse skill sets to confront the concrete and constantly emerging problems related to artificial intelligence and governance

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The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the MIT Media Lab are excited to announce the launch of the 2018 Assembly program, a program that brings together 15 to 20 participants from various backgrounds to collaborate on one or more projects that address a specific tech problem.

After a successful run of the Assembly pilot program in 2017, which focused on digital security, the Berkman Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab have combined forces, as part of our larger Ethics and Governance in Artificial Intelligence Initiative, to support a second iteration of the program with a new challenge; this year’s topic will be artificial intelligence and governance.  

We are looking for applicants with experience in one or more of the following areas who also have an interest in artificial intelligence and governance issues: 

  • Applied Machine Learning & Data Scientists
  • App Developers
  • Program and Product Managers
  • UX/UI Designers
  • Communications Strategists and PR experts

This is a unique opportunity for participants to learn, connect, and collaborate with other skilled developers and tech professionals across industries and backgrounds, to step back from day-to-day goals, and to explore novel solutions to difficult problems at the Berkman Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab.

Visit the Assembly site for more details and to apply!

Applications are now open and will be accepted until Friday, July 31, 2017 at 11:59PM ET.

 

by djones at June 20, 2017 05:00 PM

June 19, 2017

Justin Reich
The Power of Paradigms to Transform Education
Paradigms can serve as a catalyst for change with educational technology or become an anchor preventing the spread of new ideas.

by Beth Holland at June 19, 2017 12:04 PM

June 18, 2017

Benjamin Mako Hill
The Community Data Science Collective Dataverse

I’m pleased to announce the Community Data Science Collective Dataverse. Our dataverse is an archival repository for datasets created by the Community Data Science Collective. The dataverse won’t replace work that collective members have been doing for years to document and distribute data from our research. What we hope it will do is get our data — like our published manuscripts — into the hands of folks in the “forever” business.

Over the past few years, the Community Data Science Collective has published several papers where an important part of the contribution is a dataset. These include:

Recently, we’ve also begun producing replication datasets to go alongside our empirical papers. So far, this includes:

In the case of each of the first groups of papers where the dataset was a part of the contribution, we uploaded code and data to a website we’ve created. Of course, even if we do a wonderful job of keeping these websites maintained over time, eventually, our research group will cease to exist. When that happens, the data will eventually disappear as well.

The text of our papers will be maintained long after we’re gone in the journal or conference proceedings’ publisher’s archival storage and in our universities’ institutional archives. But what about the data? Since the data is a core part — perhaps the core part — of the contribution of these papers, the data should be archived permanently as well.

Toward that end, our group has created a dataverse. Our dataverse is a repository within the Harvard Dataverse where we have been uploading archival copies of datasets over the last six months. All five of the papers described above are uploaded already. The Scratch dataset, due to access control restrictions, isn’t listed on the main page but it’s online on the site. Moving forward, we’ll be populating this new datasets we create as well as replication datasets for our future empirical papers. We’re currently preparing several more.

The primary point of the CDSC Dataverse is not to provide you with way to get our data although you’re certainly welcome to use it that way and it might help make some of it more discoverable. The websites we’ve created (like for the ones for redirects and for page protection) will continue to exist and be maintained. The Dataverse is insurance for if, and when, those websites go down to ensure that our data will still be accessible.


This post was also published on the Community Data Science Collective blog.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 18, 2017 02:35 AM

June 16, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach

Subtitle

Featuring GAiA Co-Founder Quentin Palfrey

Teaser

Global Access in Action: Conversations in Global Health, Innovation, & the Digital World

Parent Event

Event Date

Jun 26 2017 12:00pm to Jun 26 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Global Health Institute
42 Church Street, Cambridge MA
Conference Room

RSVP required to attend in person

Global Access in Action: Conversations in Global Health, Innovation, & the Digital World

This event is being sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Following a rich discussion led by HLS Professor William Fisher this past Monday, we are excited to to announce the second event in our four-part series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World" in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Below is a press release on a recent journal article authored by our next speaker, Quentin Palfrey, on practical approaches to increasing global medicine accessibility and encouraging R&D on diseases burdened by the world's most vulnerable populations. The content of the article will be the basis for this upcoming event which is detailed below. We look forward to seeing you there.

_______________________________________
Pharma companies can increase access to medicines and spur new R&D by replicating industry best practices, Harvard team argues in new paper
 
For release: June 6, 2017
Cambridge, MA - In a newly-published paper in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Quentin Palfrey highlights practical strategies for how pharmaceutical companies can have a profound impact on humanitarian outcomes without undermining profitability of their ventures. The paper, entitled Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach, was produced in connection with the Global Access in Action project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.
“By adopting sensible approaches that have been used successfully by other companies, pharmaceutical firms can increase access to medicines, conduct critical research and development, and continue to be profitable,” Palfrey argues. “Under some circumstances, there are win-win approaches that can help the world’s poorest afford lifesaving medicines, allow philanthropic funders to have greater impact with limited budgets, and allow pharmaceutical programs to run corporate social responsibility programs that cost less – or even make a profit – while increasing impact,” says Palfrey.
The paper argues that pharmaceutical companies should consider expanding three approaches to increasing access to lifesaving medicines for the poor and incentivizing R&D into diseases that primarily affect the global poor. First, the paper explores non-exclusive voluntary licensing partnerships between branded and generic companies as a strategy for distributing lifesaving drugs in the world’s poorest markets. Second, the paper considers various pricing strategies and argues that intra-country price discrimination – charging different prices for similar products targeted at different populations in the same market – can be an effective way of distributing lifesaving drugs to poor communities in countries that have both rich and poor populations. Finally, the paper encourages private firms to take further steps to share the fruits of their research with research collaboratives that seek to develop cures for diseases that primarily affect poor populations, and for which there is often insufficient research funding.
 
About the Author
Quentin Palfrey is co-Director of the Global Access in Action project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, as well as the Executive Director of J-PAL North America, an anti-poverty research center at MIT. A lawyer by training, Palfrey served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy during President Obama’s first term, where he played a key role in the launch of the Patents for Humanity program and was the lead White House advisor on the America Invents Act, a major piece of patent reform legislation that was signed into law in 2011.
About the Global Access in Action Project
Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. Global Access in Action is led by Palfrey along with Professors William Fisher and Mark Wu of Harvard Law School.
About the GAiA Brown Bag Series
The GAiA brown bag series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World," is a collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute which will facilitate discussion among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines.

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by candersen at June 16, 2017 01:00 PM

June 15, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach

Teaser

Pharma companies can increase access to medicines and spur new R&D by replicating industry best practices, Harvard team argues in new paper

Thumbnail Image: 

Cambridge, MA - In a newly-published paper in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Quentin Palfrey highlights practical strategies for how pharmaceutical companies can have a profound impact on humanitarian outcomes without undermining profitability of their ventures. The paper, entitled Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach, was produced in connection with the Global Access in Action project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.

“By adopting sensible approaches that have been used successfully by other companies, pharmaceutical firms can increase access to medicines, conduct critical research and development, and continue to be profitable,” Palfrey argues. “Under some circumstances, there are win-win approaches that can help the world’s poorest afford lifesaving medicines, allow philanthropic funders to have greater impact with limited budgets, and allow pharmaceutical programs to run corporate social responsibility programs that cost less – or even make a profit – while increasing impact,” says Palfrey.

The paper argues that pharmaceutical companies should consider expanding three approaches to increasing access to lifesaving medicines for the poor and incentivizing R&D into diseases that primarily affect the global poor. First, the paper explores non-exclusive voluntary licensing partnerships between branded and generic companies as a strategy for distributing lifesaving drugs in the world’s poorest markets. Second, the paper considers various pricing strategies and argues that intra-country price discrimination – charging different prices for similar products targeted at different populations in the same market – can be an effective way of distributing lifesaving drugs to poor communities in countries that have both rich and poor populations. Finally, the paper encourages private firms to take further steps to share the fruits of their research with research collaboratives that seek to develop cures for diseases that primarily affect poor populations, and for which there is often insufficient research funding.

“Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach”,Quentin A. Palfrey, Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume XXIV, Issue 2. Winter 2017.

About the Author

Quentin Palfrey is co-Director of the Global Access in Action project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, as well as the Executive Director of J-PAL North America, an anti-poverty research center at MIT. A lawyer by training, Palfrey served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy during President Obama’s first term, where he played a key role in the launch of the Patents for Humanity program and was the lead White House advisor on the America Invents Act, a major piece of patent reform legislation that was signed into law in 2011.

About the Global Access in Action Project

Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. Global Access in Action is led by Palfrey along with Professors William Fisher and Mark Wu of Harvard Law School.

About the GAiA Brown Bag Series

The GAiA brown bag series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World," is a collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute which will facilitate discussion among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines.

About the Berkman Klein Center

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities. More information at www.cyber.harvard.edu.

by djones at June 15, 2017 04:17 PM

Seeking a Project Coordinator to advance efforts on the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence at the Berkman Klein Center

Teaser

Seeking a project coordinator to play a central role in building and enhancing research efforts in artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and related technologies

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Please note that applications for this full-time position must be submitted through the Harvard Human Resources website, and will not be collected directly through the Berkman Klein Center.

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University seeks a project coordinator to perform diverse activities associated with our work on artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and related technologies. They will join the Berkman Klein Center’s world-class community of scholars and digital architects, and work in close collaboration with Berkman Klein faculty, staff, and fellows to advance a range of interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research related to the study and development of Internet & Society.

Working alongside the Center’s growing team of project managers and project coordinators, the project coordinator will be tasked with: integrating the efforts of multiple team members, including editing written materials to establish common voice; coordinating research activities; communicating with external partners; monitoring overall timelines and outputs including project and grant deliverables, events, and grant reports; and doing research and writing, including outputs such as blog posts, grant proposals, memos, newsletters, and reports.

Additionally, the coordinator will interface with the administrative and communications teams on relevant aspects of the projects; help to organize events; maintain online project management tools; and oversee web presence. The project coordinator will help to guide the work of interns and research assistants.

Based on the fast-paced and changing needs of the Center, the project coordinator may be called upon for other tasks at short notice. Occasional evening and weekend work will be required. Travel opportunities may arise.

The right candidate will thrive in a committed, collaborative, and tight-knit community that encourages creativity, supports deep inquiry, values novel approaches to solving problems, strives for transparency, continually builds upon best-practices and lessons learned, and supports its community members’ independent and collective goals.

As with all Berkman Klein appointments, this is a June 30, 2018 term-limited position; continuation anticipated but contingent upon funding and business needs.

Basic Qualifications

College degree preferred or an equivalent of education plus relevant experience in an office environment.
 

Additional Qualifications

Solid writing, editing and proofreading skills along with strong written and oral communications skills. The flexibility to work independently and also within teams is critical.  Knowledge of current Internet issues.  

Bachelor’s degree preferred, advanced degree in fields such as social science, media studies, communications, data science, library and information science, anthropology (ethnography), or law is helpful. Experience doing substantive and organizational work for non-governmental or academic organizations strongly preferred. Prior research on Internet related issues is preferred. Progressive research skills required, including proficient knowledge of research tools, both Internet- and non-Internet based. Candidate must pay great attention to detail and be highly organized. Ability to work under tight deadlines a must. Solid writing, editing and proofreading skills required. Fluency in Internet research and publishing tools are highly desirable. Candidate would thrive in dynamic, entrepreneurial, self-motivated environment.
 

 

To apply for the AI Project Coordinator position visit the Harvard HR site

 

About the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative

Artificial intelligence and complex algorithms, fueled by the collection of big data and deep learning systems, are quickly changing how we live and work, from the news stories we see, to the loans for which we qualify, to the jobs we perform. Because of this pervasive impact, it is imperative that AI research and development be shaped by a broad range of voices—not only by engineers and corporations—but also social scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers, and policymakers.
To address this challenge, several foundations and funders recently announced the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, which will support interdisciplinary research to ensure that AI develops in a way that is ethical, accountable, and advances the public interest. The Berkman Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab will act as anchor academic institutions for this fund and develop a range of activities, research, tools, and prototypes aimed at bridging the gap between disciplines and connecting human values with technical capabilities. They will work together to strengthen existing and form new interdisciplinary human networks and institutional collaborations, and serve as a collaborative platform where stakeholders working across disciplines, sectors, and geographies can meet, engage, learn, and share.
CC-licensed image courtesy of Brickset

by djones at June 15, 2017 01:00 PM

June 14, 2017

Benjamin Mako Hill
Children’s Perspectives on Critical Data Literacies

Last week, we presented a new paper that describes how children are thinking through some of the implications of new forms of data collection and analysis. The presentation was given at the ACM CHI conference in Denver last week and the paper is open access and online.

Over the last couple years, we’ve worked on a large project to support children in doing — and not just learning about — data science. We built a system, Scratch Community Blocks, that allows the 18 million users of the Scratch online community to write their own computer programs — in Scratch of course — to analyze data about their own learning and social interactions. An example of one of those programs to find how many of one’s follower in Scratch are not from the United States is shown below.

Last year, we deployed Scratch Community Blocks to 2,500 active Scratch users who, over a period of several months, used the system to create more than 1,600 projects.

As children used the system, Samantha Hautea, a student in UW’s Communication Leadership program, led a group of us in an online ethnography. We visited the projects children were creating and sharing. We followed the forums where users discussed the blocks. We read comment threads left on projects. We combined Samantha’s detailed field notes with the text of comments and forum posts, with ethnographic interviews of several users, and with notes from two in-person workshops. We used a technique called grounded theory to analyze these data.

What we found surprised us. We expected children to reflect on being challenged by — and hopefully overcoming — the technical parts of doing data science. Although we certainly saw this happen, what emerged much more strongly from our analysis was detailed discussion among children about the social implications of data collection and analysis.

In our analysis, we grouped children’s comments into five major themes that represented what we called “critical data literacies.” These literacies reflect things that children felt were important implications of social media data collection and analysis.

First, children reflected on the way that programmatic access to data — even data that was technically public — introduced privacy concerns. One user described the ability to analyze data as, “creepy”, but at the same time, “very cool.” Children expressed concern that programmatic access to data could lead to “stalking“ and suggested that the system should ask for permission.

Second, children recognized that data analysis requires skepticism and interpretation. For example, Scratch Community Blocks introduced a bug where the block that returned data about followers included users with disabled accounts. One user, in an interview described to us how he managed to figure out the inconsistency:

At one point the follower blocks, it said I have slightly more followers than I do. And, that was kind of confusing when I was trying to make the project. […] I pulled up a second [browser] tab and compared the [data from Scratch Community Blocks and the data in my profile].

Third, children discussed the hidden assumptions and decisions that drive the construction of metrics. For example, the number of views received for each project in Scratch is counted using an algorithm that tries to minimize the impact of gaming the system (similar to, for example, Youtube). As children started to build programs with data, they started to uncover and speculate about the decisions behind metrics. For example, they guessed that the view count might only include “unique” views and that view counts may include users who do not have accounts on the website.

Fourth, children building projects with Scratch Community Blocks realized that an algorithm driven by social data may cause certain users to be excluded. For example, a 13-year-old expressed concern that the system could be used to exclude users with few social connections saying:

I love these new Scratch Blocks! However I did notice that they could be used to exclude new Scratchers or Scratchers with not a lot of followers by using a code: like this:
when flag clicked
if then user’s followers < 300
stop all.
I do not think this a big problem as it would be easy to remove this code but I did just want to bring this to your attention in case this not what you would want the blocks to be used for.

Fifth, children were concerned about the possibility that measurement might distort the Scratch community’s values. While giving feedback on the new system, a user expressed concern that by making it easier to measure and compare followers, the system could elevate popularity over creativity, collaboration, and respect as a marker of success in Scratch.

I think this was a great idea! I am just a bit worried that people will make these projects and take it the wrong way, saying that followers are the most important thing in on Scratch.

Kids’ conversations around Scratch Community Blocks are good news for educators who are starting to think about how to engage young learners in thinking critically about the implications of data. Although no kid using Scratch Community Blocks discussed each of the five literacies described above, the themes reflect starting points for educators designing ways to engage kids in thinking critically about data.

Our work shows that if children are given opportunities to actively engage and build with social and behavioral data, they might not only learn how to do data analysis, but also reflect on its implications.

This blog-post and the work that it describes is a collaborative project by Samantha Hautea, Sayamindu Dasgupta, and Benjamin Mako Hill. We have also received support and feedback from members of the Scratch team at MIT (especially Mitch Resnick and Natalie Rusk), as well as from Hal Abelson from MIT CSAIL. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 14, 2017 05:46 PM

The Wikipedia Adventure

I recently finished a paper that presents a novel social computing system called the Wikipedia Adventure. The system was a gamified tutorial for new Wikipedia editors. Working with the tutorial creators, we conducted both a survey of its users and a randomized field experiment testing its effectiveness in encouraging subsequent contributions. We found that although users loved it, it did not affect subsequent participation rates.

Start screen for the Wikipedia Adventure.

A major concern that many online communities face is how to attract and retain new contributors. Despite it’s success, Wikipedia is no different. In fact, researchers have shown that after experiencing a massive initial surge in activity, the number of active editors on Wikipedia has been in slow decline since 2007.

The number of active, registered editors (≥5 edits per month) to Wikipedia over time. From Halfaker, Geiger, and Morgan 2012.

Research has attributed a large part of this decline to the hostile environment that newcomers experience when begin contributing. New editors often attempt to make contributions which are subsequently reverted by more experienced editors for not following Wikipedia’s increasingly long list of rules and guidelines for effective participation.

This problem has led many researchers and Wikipedians to wonder how to more effectively onboard newcomers to the community. How do you ensure that new editors Wikipedia quickly gain the knowledge they need in order to make contributions that are in line with community norms?

To this end, Jake Orlowitz and Jonathan Morgan from the Wikimedia Foundation worked with a team of Wikipedians to create a structured, interactive tutorial called The Wikipedia Adventure. The idea behind this system was that new editors would be invited to use it shortly after creating a new account on Wikipedia, and it would provide a step-by-step overview of the basics of editing.

The Wikipedia Adventure was designed to address issues that new editors frequently encountered while learning how to contribute to Wikipedia. It is structured into different ‘missions’ that guide users through various aspects of participation on Wikipedia, including how to communicate with other editors, how to cite sources, and how to ensure that edits present a neutral point of view. The sequence of the missions gives newbies an overview of what they need to know instead of having to figure everything out themselves. Additionally, the theme and tone of the tutorial sought to engage new users, rather than just redirecting them to the troves of policy pages.

Those who play the tutorial receive automated badges on their user page for every mission they complete. This signals to veteran editors that the user is acting in good-faith by attempting to learn the norms of Wikipedia.

An example of a badge that a user receives after demonstrating the skills to communicate with other users on Wikipedia.

Once the system was built, we were interested in knowing whether people enjoyed using it and found it helpful. So we conducted a survey asking editors who played the Wikipedia Adventure a number of questions about its design and educational effectiveness. Overall, we found that users had a very favorable opinion of the system and found it useful.

Survey responses about how users felt about TWA.
Survey responses about what users learned through TWA.

We were heartened by these results. We’d sought to build an orientation system that was engaging and educational, and our survey responses suggested that we succeeded on that front. This led us to ask the question – could an intervention like the Wikipedia Adventure help reverse the trend of a declining editor base on Wikipedia? In particular, would exposing new editors to the Wikipedia Adventure lead them to make more contributions to the community?

To find out, we conducted a field experiment on a population of new editors on Wikipedia. We identified 1,967 newly created accounts that passed a basic test of making good-faith edits. We then randomly invited 1,751 of these users via their talk page to play the Wikipedia Adventure. The rest were sent no invitation. Out of those who were invited, 386 completed at least some portion of the tutorial.

We were interested in knowing whether those we invited to play the tutorial (our treatment group) and those we didn’t (our control group) contributed differently in the first six months after they created accounts on Wikipedia. Specifically, we wanted to know whether there was a difference in the total number of edits they made to Wikipedia, the number of edits they made to talk pages, and the average quality of their edits as measured by content persistence.

We conducted two kinds of analyses on our dataset. First, we estimated the effect of inviting users to play the Wikipedia Adventure on our three outcomes of interest. Second, we estimated the effect of playing the Wikipedia Adventure, conditional on having been invited to do so, on those same outcomes.

To our surprise, we found that in both cases there were no significant effects on any of the outcomes of interest. Being invited to play the Wikipedia Adventure therefore had no effect on new users’ volume of participation either on Wikipedia in general, or on talk pages specifically, nor did it have any effect on the average quality of edits made by the users in our study. Despite the very positive feedback that the system received in the survey evaluation stage, it did not produce a significant change in newcomer contribution behavior. We concluded that the system by itself could not reverse the trend of newcomer attrition on Wikipedia.

Why would a system that was received so positively ultimately produce no aggregate effect on newcomer participation? We’ve identified a few possible reasons. One is that perhaps a tutorial by itself would not be sufficient to counter hostile behavior that newcomers might experience from experienced editors. Indeed, the friendly, welcoming tone of the Wikipedia Adventure might contrast with strongly worded messages that new editors receive from veteran editors or bots. Another explanation might be that users enjoyed playing the Wikipedia Adventure, but did not enjoy editing Wikipedia. After all, the two activities draw on different kinds of motivations. Finally, the system required new users to choose to play the tutorial. Maybe people who chose to play would have gone on to edit in similar ways without the tutorial.

Ultimately, this work shows us the importance of testing systems outside of lab studies. The Wikipedia Adventure was built by community members to address known gaps in the onboarding process, and our survey showed that users responded well to its design.

While it would have been easy to declare victory at that stage, the field deployment study painted a different picture. Systems like the Wikipedia Adventure may inform the design of future orientation systems. That said, more profound changes to the interface or modes of interaction between editors might also be needed to increase contributions from newcomers.

This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Sneha Narayan, Jake OrlowitzJonathan Morgan, and Aaron Shaw. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation (grants IIS-1617129 and IIS-1617468), Northwestern University, and the University of Washington. We also published all the data and code necessary to reproduce our analysis in a repository in the Harvard Dataverse. Sneha posted the material in this blog post over on the Community Data Science Collective Blog.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 14, 2017 05:45 PM

Surviving an “Eternal September:” How an Online Community Managed a Surge of Newcomers

Attracting newcomers is among the most widely studied problems in online community research. However, with all the attention paid to challenge of getting new users, much less research has studied the flip side of that coin: large influxes of newcomers can pose major problems as well!

The most widely known example of problems caused by an influx of newcomers into an online community occurred in Usenet. Every September, new university students connecting to the Internet for the first time would wreak havoc in the Usenet discussion forums. When AOL connected its users to the Usenet in 1994, it disrupted the community for so long that it became widely known as “The September that never ended”.

Our study considered a similar influx in NoSleep—an online community within Reddit where writers share original horror stories and readers comment and vote on them. With strict rules requiring that all members of the community suspend disbelief, NoSleep thrives off the fact that readers experience an immersive storytelling environment. Breaking the rules is as easy as questioning the truth of someone’s story. Socializing newcomers represents a major challenge for NoSleep.

Number of subscribers and moderators on /r/NoSleep over time.

On May 7th, 2014, NoSleep became a “default subreddit”—i.e., every new user to Reddit automatically joined NoSleep. After gradually accumulating roughly 240,000 members from 2010 to 2014, the NoSleep community grew to over 2 million subscribers in a year. That said, NoSleep appeared to largely hold things together. This reflects the major question that motivated our study: How did NoSleep withstand such a massive influx of newcomers without enduring their own Eternal September?

To answer this question, we interviewed a number of NoSleep participants, writers, moderators, and admins. After transcribing, coding, and analyzing the results, we proposed that NoSleep survived because of three inter-connected systems that helped protect the community’s norms and overall immersive environment.

First, there was a strong and organized team of moderators who enforced the rules no matter what. They recruited new moderators knowing the community’s population was going to surge. They utilized a private subreddit for NoSleep’s staff. They were able to socialize and educate new moderators effectively. Although issuing sanctions against community members was often difficult, our interviewees explained that NoSleep’s moderators were deeply committed and largely uncompromising.

That commitment resonates within the second system that protected NoSleep: regulation by normal community members. From our interviews, we found that the participants felt a shared sense of community that motivated them both to socialize newcomers themselves as well as to report inappropriate comments and downvote people who violate the community’s norms.

Finally, we found that the technological systems protected the community as well. For instance, post-throttling was instituted to limit the frequency at which a writer could post their stories. Additionally, Reddit’s “Automoderator”, a programmable AI bot, was used to issue sanctions against obvious norm violators while running in the background. Participants also pointed to the tools available to them—the report feature and voting system in particular—to explain how easy it was for them to report and regulate the community’s disruptors.

This blog post was written with Charlie Kiene. The paper and work this post describes is collaborative work with Charlie Kiene and Andrés Monroy-Hernández. The paper was published in the Proceedings of CHI 2016 and is released as open access so anyone can read the entire paper here. A version of this post was published on the Community Data Science Collective blog.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 14, 2017 05:44 PM

New Dataset: Five Years of Longitudinal Data from Scratch

Scratch is a block-based programming language created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group (LLK) at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch gives kids the power to use programming to create their own interactive animations and computer games. Since 2007, the online community that allows Scratch programmers to share, remix, and socialize around their projects has drawn more than 16 million users who have shared nearly 20 million projects and more than 100 million comments. It is one of the most popular ways for kids to learn programming and among the larger online communities for kids in general.

Front page of the Scratch online community (https://scratch.mit.edu) during the period covered by the dataset.

Since 2010, I have published a series of papers using quantitative data collected from the database behind the Scratch online community. As the source of data for many of my first quantitative and data scientific papers, it’s not a major exaggeration to say that I have built my academic career on the dataset.

I was able to do this work because I happened to be doing my masters in a research group that shared a physical space (“The Cube”) with LLK and because I was friends with Andrés Monroy-Hernández, who started in my masters cohort at the Media Lab. A year or so after we met, Andrés conceived of the Scratch online community and created the first version for his masters thesis project. Because I was at MIT and because I knew the right people, I was able to get added to the IRB protocols and jump through the hoops necessary to get access to the database.

Over the years, Andrés and I have heard over and over, in conversation and in reviews of our papers, that we were privileged to have access to such a rich dataset. More than three years ago, Andrés and I began trying to figure out how we might broaden this access. Andrés had the idea of taking advantage of the launch of Scratch 2.0 in 2013 to focus on trying to release the first five years of Scratch 1.x online community data (March 2007 through March 2012) — most of the period that the codebase he had written ran the site.

After more work than I have put into any single research paper or project, Andrés and I have published a data descriptor in Nature’s new journal Scientific Data. This means that the data is now accessible to other researchers. The data includes five years of detailed longitudinal data organized in 32 tables with information drawn from more than 1 million Scratch users, nearly 2 million Scratch projects, more than 10 million comments, more than 30 million visits to Scratch projects, and much more. The dataset includes metadata on user behavior as well the full source code for every project. Alongside the data is the source code for all of the software that ran the website and that users used to create the projects as well as the code used to produce the dataset we’ve released.

Releasing the dataset was a complicated process. First, we had navigate important ethical concerns about the the impact that a release of any data might have on Scratch’s users. Toward that end, we worked closely with the Scratch team and the the ethics board at MIT to design a protocol for the release that balanced these risks with the benefit of a release. The most important features of our approach in this regard is that the dataset we’re releasing is limited to only public data. Although the data is public, we understand that computational access to data is different in important ways to access via a browser or API. As a result, we’re requiring anybody interested in the data to tell us who they are and agree to a detailed usage agreement. The Scratch team will vet these applicants. Although we’re worried that this creates a barrier to access, we think this approach strikes a reasonable balance.

Beyond the the social and ethical issues, creating the dataset was an enormous task. Andrés and I spent Sunday afternoons over much of the last three years going column-by-column through the MySQL database that ran Scratch. We looked through the source code and the version control system to figure out how the data was created. We spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out which columns and rows were public. Most of our work went into creating detailed codebooks and documentation that we hope makes the process of using this data much easier for others (the data descriptor is just a brief overview of what’s available). Serializing some of the larger tables took days of computer time.

In this process, we had a huge amount of help from many others including an enormous amount of time and support from Mitch Resnick, Natalie Rusk, Sayamindu Dasgupta, and Benjamin Berg at MIT as well as from many other on the Scratch Team. We also had an enormous amount of feedback from a group of a couple dozen researchers who tested the release as well as others who helped us work through through the technical, social, and ethical challenges. The National Science Foundation funded both my work on the project and the creation of Scratch itself.

Because access to data has been limited, there has been less research on Scratch than the importance of the system warrants. We hope our work will change this. We can imagine studies using the dataset by scholars in communication, computer science, education, sociology, network science, and beyond. We’re hoping that by opening up this dataset to others, scholars with different interests, different questions, and in different fields can benefit in the way that Andrés and I have. I suspect that there are other careers waiting to be made with this dataset and I’m excited by the prospect of watching those careers develop.

You can find out more about the dataset, and how to apply for access, by reading the data descriptor on Nature’s website.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 14, 2017 05:44 PM

June 13, 2017

David Weinberger
Top 2 Beatles songs

About a week ago, out of the blue I blurted out to my family what the two best Beatles songs are. I pronounced this with a seriousness befitting the topic, and with a confidence born of the fact that it’s a ridiculous question and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Vulture just published a complete ranking of all Beatles songs.

Nailed it.

Their #1 selection is an obvious contender. #2 is controversial and probably intentionally so. But, obviously, I think it’s a good choice.

If you want to see what they chose, click here: #1. Day in the Life #2 Strawberry Fields

By the way, the Vulture write-ups of each of the songs are good. At least the ones I read were. If you’re into this, the best book I’ve read is Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head, which has an essay on each recording with comments about the social and personal context of the song and a learned explanation of the music. Astounding book.

The post Top 2 Beatles songs appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at June 13, 2017 11:16 AM

June 12, 2017

Justin Reich
A Multicultural Perspective on Technology in Schools
What if, instead of thinking about technology as an add-on, or instructional tool, or device to facilitate student learning, we thought of it as a driver of school culture?

by Beth Holland at June 12, 2017 11:09 PM

Berkman Center front page
Jonny Sun and Jonathan Zittrain in conversation

Subtitle

Author of the Book “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” by jomny sun (the aliebn)

Teaser

Join Jonny Sun, the author of the popular Twitter account @jonnysun, for a conversation in celebration of his new book “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” by jomny sun (the aliebn).

Event Date

Jun 28 2017 12:00pm to Jun 28 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard Law School campus
Wasserstein Hall, Room 2012

RSVP required to attend in person
Event will be live webcast at 12:00 pm

Join Jonny Sun, the author of the popular Twitter account @jonnysun, for a conversation in celebration of his new book “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” by jomny sun (the aliebn). This debut illustrated book is the unforgettable story of a lost, lonely, and confused alien finding friendship, acceptance, and love among the creatures of Earth. Constructed from many of Jonny’s re-contextualized tweets, the book is also a creative thesis on the narrative formats of social media, and a defense of the humanity-fulfilling aspects of social media born out of his experiences on Twitter. 

About Jonny

Jonathan Sun is the author behind @jonnysun. When he isn’t tweeting, he is an architect, designer, engineer, artist, playwright and comedy writer. His work across multiple disciplines broadly addresses narratives of human experience. As a playwright, Jonathan’s work has been performed at the Yale School of Drama, and in Toronto at Hart House Theater and Factory Theater. As an artist and illustrator, his work has been exhibited at MIT, Yale, New Haven ArtSpace, and the University of Toronto. His work has been appeared on NPR, Buzzfeed, Playboy, GQ, and McSweeney’s. In his other life, he is a doctoral student at MIT and Berkman Klein fellow at Harvard.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.

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by candersen at June 12, 2017 07:42 PM

ProjectVRM
Actual chat with an Internet Disservice Provider

customerdisservice

After failing to get a useful answer from Verizon about FiOS availabilty at a Manhattan address (via http://fios.verizon.com/fios-coverage.ht…), I engaged the site’s chat agent system, and had this dialog:

Jessica: Hi! I am a Verizon specialist, can I help you today?

You: I am trying to help a friend moving into ______ in New York City. The Web interface here gives a choice of three addresses, two of which are that address, but it doesn’t seem to work. She wants to know if the Gigabit deal — internet only (she doesn’t watch TV or want a phone) — is available there.
Jessica: By chatting with us, you grant us permission to review your services during the chat to offer the best value. Refusing to chat will not affect your current services. It is your right and our duty to protect your account information. For quality, we may monitor and/or review this chat.

You: sure.
Jessica: Hey there! My name is Jessica. Happy to help!

Jessica: Thank you for considering Verizon services. I would be glad to assist you with Verizon services.

You: Did you see my question?
Jessica: Thank you for sharing the address, please allow me a moment to check this for you.

Jessica: Yes, please allow me a moment to check this for you.

Jessica: I appreciate your patience.

Jessica: Do you live in the apartment?

You: No. I am looking for a friend who is moving into that building.
You: I had FiOS where I used to live near Boston and was pleased with it.
Jessica: Thank you for your consideration.

Jessica: The address where your friend will be moving require to enter the apartment number.

You: hang on
Jessica: Sure, take your time.

You: 5B
You: When we are done I
Jessica: Thank you, one more moment please.

You: would also like you to check my building as well.
Jessica: Sure, allow me a moment.

Jessica: I appreciate your patience.

Jessica: I’m extremely sorry to share this, currently at your friend’s location we don’t have Fios services.

You: Okay. How about _________ ?
You: Still there?
Jessica: Yes, I’m checking for this.

Jessica: Please stay connected.

Jessica has left the chat
You are being transferred, please hold…
You are now chatting with LOUIS
LOUIS: Good morning. I’ll be happy to assist you today. May I start by asking for your name, the phone number we are going to be working with today, and your account pin please?

You: I want to know if FiOS is available at _________.
You: __________. It is not a landline and I do not have an account.
LOUIS: Hello. You’ve reached our Verizon Wireless chat services. I don’t have an option to check on our Fios services for your area. You are able to contact our Fios sister company at the number 1-800-483-3000

You: this makes no sense. I was transfered to you by Jessica in FiOS.
LOUIS: Looks like Jessica is one of our chat agents, but we are with Verizon Wireless. Fios is our sister company, which is a different entity than us

You: Well, send some feedback to whoever or whatever is in charge. Not sure what the problem is, but it’s a fail in this round. Best to you. I now your job isn’t easy.
LOUIS: I do apologize about this, I will certainly relay this feedback on this matter. Here is a link to Verizon Communications for your residential services:https://www.verizon.com/support/residential/contact-us/index.htm

You: Thanks.
LOUIS: I want to thank you for chatting with me today. Hope you have a great day! You can find answers to additional questions at vzw.com/support. Please click on the “X” or “End Chat” button to end this chat.

You: Thanks agin.

The only way to fix this, as we’ve said here countless times, is from the customer’s side. Meanwhile, please dig Despair.com, source of the image above. For so many companies, it remains too true.

by Doc Searls at June 12, 2017 04:23 PM

Berkman Center front page
Potential Uses of Miniature Spectrometers to Mitigate the Health Crisis in Developing Countries

Subtitle

featuring HLS Professor William Fisher

Teaser

Global Access in Action: Conversations in Global Health, Innovation, & the Digital World

Parent Event

Event Date

Jun 12 2017 12:00pm to Jun 12 2017 1:50pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Monday, June 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Global Health Institute
42 Church Street, Cambridge MA
Conference Room

Global Access in Action: Conversations in Global Health, Innovation, & the Digital World

This event was sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

'Employing this quality assessment technology would increase the government’s ability to regulate drug distribution" argues HLS Professor William Fisher.

GAiA's first 'Conversation on Global Health, Innovation, and the Digital World' hosted in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute was held on June 12, 2017. GAiA co-director William Fisher presented on the potential for miniature spectrometers to reduce the use and distribution of counterfeit drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fisher argues that employing this quality assessment technology would increase the government’s ability to regulate drug distribution and empower individuals to confirm the authenticity of the drugs they purchase, ultimately increasing the use of therapeutically effective medicines. He outlined a pilot project in Namibia being initiated to use this new technology in reducing illegal distribution of counterfeit antimalarial medication.

Fisher's talk sparked a rich discussion on the practical considerations and technical limitations of the initiative, as well as the implications of utilizing this technology as a tool to enforce IP laws across borders.


Future Global Access in Action Brown Bags: June 26, July 24, July 31

by candersen at June 12, 2017 04:00 PM

Miriam Meckel
Rückkehr zur Stammesgesellschaft

Der Mensch ist begabt zur radikalen Zuversicht. Das ist ein großes Geschenk. Wir tauschen es gerade gegen den Abwehrreflex.

Ein lebensgefährlicher Ausflug? Wer am vergangenen Wochenende in der britischen Hauptstadt auf der London Bridge oder am Borough Market unterwegs war, hat sich das nicht vorstellen können. Für 48 Menschen wurde er es. Für sieben war er gar tödlich.

Mehrere Anschläge haben am Mittwoch die iranische Hauptstadt Teheran erschüttert. Auch hier bekannte sich, wie in London, der sogenannte „Islamische Staat“ („IS“) zu den Anschlägen.

Die allgegenwärtige terroristische Bedrohung ist das eine Problem. Das viel größere ist die Überforderung derjenigen, die uns vor ihr schützen sollen. Die „wehrhafte“ Demokratie, wie sie als Gedanke im Grundgesetz angelegt ist, erscheint derzeit in vielen Staaten löchriger als ein Sieb. Deutsche Behörden haben im Fall des Berliner Weihnachtsmarktattentäters Anis Amri immer wieder neue Versäumnisse, Inkompetenz oder einfach auch mangelnde Aktivität zu erklären versucht – ein Armutszeugnis für Deutschland. In Großbritannien sieht es nicht besser aus. Auch hier sind die Behörden manch einem Hinweis auf die Attentäter nicht nachgegangen. Zynische Randerscheinung: Einer der drei Männer war sogar in einer Reportage des britischen Fernsehsenders Channel 4 zu sehen gewesen, betend vor einer Flagge des „IS“. Titel der Sendung: „Die Dschihadisten von nebenan“.

Die Täter sitzen um die Ecke, und keiner merkt es. Aber sehr viele Menschen merken, dass sich hier gerade etwas verändert. Vom Globalisierungsschub der offenen Welt- und Handelsbeziehungen wird umgeschaltet. Volle Schubumkehr zurück in die Stammesgesellschaft. Mein Stamm – dein Stamm, das ist die neue Unterscheidung.

Marshall McLuhan, der kanadische Medientheoretiker, hat bereits Anfang der Sechzigerjahre vorhergesagt, dass die Globalisierung die Menschheit wieder auf das Denken der Stammesgesellschaften zurückführen wird. Wir rücken in der Welt zusammen und haben uns alle lieb? Dafür gibt es kein einziges Anzeichen, so McLuhan.

Der Schutzbedarf des Einzelnen schrumpft nicht, je offener und vernetzter die Welt wird, in der er lebt. Er steigt. Im Idealfall einer friedlichen Weltordnung muss ein Staat die Mittel der Abwehr nicht einsetzen. Aber wo gibt es den Idealfall?

Das Behördenversagen im Kampf gegen den Terrorismus ist für die Schubumkehr in vielen westlichen Gesellschaften mit verantwortlich. Der Welt offen entgegentreten kann nur, wer darauf vertrauen darf, dass er doch immer gegen das Schlimmste geschützt wird.

Ironie der Geschichte: Mit der Rückkehr zur Stammesgesellschaft verabschieden wir uns nicht nur von der Möglichkeit, den globalen Terrorismus gemeinsam zu bekämpfen, weil es anders gar nicht geht. Wir verabschieden uns auch von den Versprechen auf wachsenden Wohlstand und bessere Lebensbedingungen. Ökonomisch gesehen sind wir irgendwann auf dem Weg zurück zum Dorfplatz mit Brunnen und Gütertausch. Was also bleibt dann von der radikalen Zuversicht? Das Adjektiv.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at June 12, 2017 05:16 AM

June 07, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Postdoc Fei Fang Wins USC Viterbi Best Dissertation Award
June 7, 2017

Postdoc Fei Fang was awarded the best USC Viterbi dissertation award for 2017 – the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research.

Her work on how best to deploy limited security resources is aiding the U.S. Coast Guard and even protecting endangered tigers in Malaysia.

For more information on the award and on Fang's research, please see:

Read more about Postdoc Fei Fang Wins USC Viterbi Best Dissertation Award

by Gabriella Fee at June 07, 2017 02:38 PM

June 06, 2017

David Weinberger
[liveblog] metaLab

Harvard metaLab is giving an informal Berkman Klein talk about their work on designing for ethical AI. Jeffrey Schnapp introduces metaLab as “an idea foundry, a knowledge-design lab, and a production studio experimenting in the networked arts and humanities.” The discussion today will be about metaLab’s various involvements in the Berkman Klein – MIT MediaLab project on ethics and governance of AI. The conference is packed with Fellows and the newly-arrived summer interns.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Matthew Battles and Jessica Yurkofsky begin by talking about Curricle, a “new platform for experimenting with shopping for courses.” How can the experience be richer, more visual, and use more of the information and data that Harvard has? They’ve come up with a UI that has three elements: traditional search, a visualization, and a list of the results.

“They’ve been grappling with the ethics of putting forward new search algorithms. ”They’ve been grappling with the ethics of putting forward new search algorithms. The design is guided by transparency, autonomy, and visualization. Transparency means that they make apparent how the search works, allowing students to assign weights to keywords. If Curricle makes recommendations, it will explain that it’s because other students like you have chosen it or because students like you have never done this, etc. Visualization shows students what’s being returned by their search and how it’s distributed.

Similar principles guide a new project, AI Compass, that is the entry point for information about Berkman Klein’s work on the Ethics and Governance of AI project. It is designed to document the research being done and to provide a tool for surveying the field more broadly. They looked at how neural nets are visualized, how training sets are presented, and other visual metaphors. They are trying to find a way to present these resources in their connections. They have decided to use Conway’s Game of Life [which I was writing about an hour ago, which freaks me out a bit]. The game allows complex structures to emerge from simple rules. AI Compass is using animated cellular automata as icons on the site.

metaLab wants to enable people to explore the information at three different scales. The macro scale shows all of the content arranged into thematic areas. This lets you see connections among the pieces. The middle scale shows the content with more information. At the lowest scale, you see the resource information itself, as well as connections to related content.

Sarah Newman talks about how AI is viewed in popular culture: the Matrix, Ahnuld, etc. “We generally don’t think about AI as it’s expressed in the tools we actually use”We generally don’t think about AI as it’s expressed in the tools we actually use, such as face recognition, search, recommendations, etc. metaLab is interested in how art can draw out the social and cultural dimensions of AI. “What can we learn about ourselves by how we interact with, tell stories about, and project logic, intelligence, and sentience onto machines?” The aim is to “provoke meaningful reflection.”

One project is called “The Future of Secrets.” Where our email and texts be in 100 years? And what does this tell us about our relationship with our tech. Why and how do we trust them? It’s an installation that’s been at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and recently in Berlin. People enter secrets that are printed out anonymously. People created stories, most of which weren’t true, often about the logic of the machine. People tended to project much more intelligence on the machine than was there. Cameras were watching and would occasionally print out images from the show itself.

From this came a new piece (done with fellow Rachel Kalmar) in which a computer reads the secrets out loud. It will be installed at the Berkman Klein Center soon.

Working with Kim Albrecht in Berlin, the center is creating data visualizations based on the data that a mobile phone collects, including the accelerometer. “These visualizations let us see how the device is constructing an image of the world we’re moving through”These visualizations let us see how the device is constructing an image of the world we’re moving through. That image is messy, noisy.

The lab is also collaborating on a Berlin exhibition, adding provocative framing using X degrees of Separation. It finds relationships among objects from disparate cultures. What relationships do algorithms find? How does that compare with how humans do it? What can we learn?

Starting in the fall, Jeffrey and a co-teacher are going to be leading a robotics design studio, experimenting with interior and exterior architecture in which robotic agents are copresent with human actors. This is already happening, raising regulatory and urban planning challenges. The studio will also take seriously machine vision as a way of generating new ways of thinking about mobility within city spaces.

Q&A

Q: me: For AI Compass, where’s the info coming from? How is the data represented? Open API?

Matthew: It’s designed to focus on particular topics. E.g., Youth, Governance, Art. Each has a curator. The goal is not to map the entire space. It will be a growing resource. An open API is not yet on the radar, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do.

Q: At the AI Advance, Jonathan Zittrain said that organizations are a type of AI: governed by a set of rules, they grow and learn beyond their individuals, etc.

Matthew: We hope to deal with this very capacious approach to AI is through artists. What have artists done that bear on AI beyond the cinematic tropes? There’s a rich discourse about this. We want to be in dialogue with all sorts of people about this.

Q: About Curricle: Are you integrating Q results [student responses to classes], etc.?

Sarah: Not yet. There’s mixed feeling from administrators about using that data. We want Curricle to encourage people to take new paths. The Q data tends to encourage people down old paths. Curricle will let students annotate their own paths and share it.

Jeffrey: We’re aiming at creating a curiosity engine. We’re working with a century of curricular data. This is a rare privilege.

me: It’d enrich the library if the data about resources was hooked into LibraryCloud.

Q: kendra: A useful feature would be finding a random course that fits into your schedule.

A: In the works.

Q: It’d be great to have transparency around the suggestions of unexpected courses. We don’t want people to be choosing courses simply to be unique.

A: Good point.

A: The same tool that lets you diversify your courses also lets you concentrate all of them into two days in classrooms near your dorm. Because the data includes courses from all the faculty, being unique is actually easy. The challenge is suggesting uniqueness that means something.

Q: People choose courses in part based on who else is choosing that course. It’d be great to have friends in the platform.

A: Great idea.

Q: How do you educate the people using the platform? How do you present and explain the options? How are you going to work with advisors?

A: Important concerns at the core of what we’re thinking about and working on.

The post [liveblog] metaLab appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at June 06, 2017 08:18 PM

MediaBerkman
Can We Talk?: An Open Forum on Disability, Technology, and Inclusion
Can we talk? The question (a favorite prompt of the late comedian Joan Rivers) evokes a feeling of being intimately and sometimes uncomfortably open, frank, and honest, both with others and ourselves. This event, a conversation between Prof. Elizabeth Ellcessor (Indiana University) and Prof. Meryl Alper (Northeastern University, Berkman Klein Center​), points the question at the topic of disability, technology, and inclusion in public and private, and in digital and digitally-mediated spaces. Ryan Budish (Berkman Klein Center) and Dylan Mulvin (Microsoft Research) will serve as discussants. Can we talk?, with respect to different degrees of potential access (in its social, cultural, and political forms) that new media constrains and affords for individuals with disabilities. Can we talk?, with respect to who does and does not take part in the ongoing research, development, and critique of accessible communication technologies. Can we talk?, with respect to whether or not talking, or its corollary "voice," is an adequate metaphor for conversation, participation, and agency? Alper and ​Ellcessor and draw upon their recent respective books, ​Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017) and ​Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation (NYU Press, 2016). For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/05/Canwetalk

by the Berkman Klein Center at June 06, 2017 06:18 PM

June 03, 2017

David Weinberger
1.5 random thoughts

1. Life Pro tip: Aim at what you hit.

2. A metaphor that may come in handy someday: As undignified as a child climbing a slide.

The post 1.5 random thoughts appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at June 03, 2017 11:50 PM

June 02, 2017

Miriam Meckel
Der Terminator

Donald Trumps Politik ist Fake News. Und ein großer Betrug an der amerikanischen Mittelklasse, die ihn gewählt hat.

Der Ausstieg aus dem Pariser Klimaabkommen war nur der Gipfel einer steinigen Woche, der Höhepunkt einer kumulierten Kombination aus Größenwahn und Ignoranz. Bei seiner ersten Auslandsreise rempelte der US-Präsident sich bar jeder Vorbereitung oder Kenntnis durchs politische Geschehen. Freihandel? Zur Worthülse verkommen. Klimaschutz? Braucht es nicht, Wetter war doch gut. Gedenken an die sechs Millionen jüdischen Opfer des Holocaust? „So amazing!“ Das alles kam den von Donald Trump strategisch so gehassten Fake News ziemlich nahe. Nicht faktensicher und bar jeder sozialen und historischen Kontextuierung.

Der wahre Knaller aber ist der Haushaltsentwurf, den das Weiße Haus unmittelbar vor der Reise vorgelegt hatte, denn der zeigt: Bei Trump ist im Budgethimmel Jahrmarkt.

Weil sich die Wirtschaft so prima entwickelt, will Trump in den nächsten zehn Jahren 5,6 Billionen Dollar Defizit abbauen. Dazu will er 3,6 Billionen einsparen, die restlichen zwei Billionen sind Mehreinnahmen aus dem hervorragend prognostizierten Wachstum von drei Prozent. Leider glaubt außer dem Weißen Haus niemand an dieses Zahlenspiel. Das Haushaltsbüro des Kongresses rechnet mit einem Wachstum von deutlich weniger als zwei Prozent. Die US-Notenbank liegt noch darunter.

Trump will außerdem eine Steuerreform angehen, die aufkommensneutral umgesetzt werden soll. Dann müsste er entweder die Steuerbasis verbreitern und Schlupflöcher stopfen. Oder er rechnet damit, dass die Steuersenkungen sich durch zusätzliches Wachstum selbst finanzieren. Man braucht schon ziemlich viel magisches Denken, um an das Gelingen dieser Versuchsanordnung zu glauben. Manisch wird dieses Denken allerdings, wenn dasselbe zusätzliche Wachstum gleich zwei Mal Mindereinnahmen gegenfinanzieren soll: einmal den Schuldenabbau und einmal die Steuererleichterungen. Eins rechts, eins links, und den Verstand fallenlassen. Das ist Fiskalvoodoo.

Die Püppchen, die der US-Präsident damit aufspießt, sind seine Kernwähler. Die amerikanische Mittelschicht hat zu großen Teilen Trump gewählt, weil sie von Washington und der politischen Klasse enttäuscht sind. Trump redet ihnen nach dem Mund und sich seine Welt skrupellos schön. Natürlich wird dieses Budget so nicht umgesetzt werden. Aber die Linien sind klar angelegt. Der einzige Posten, der steigt, sind die Verteidigungsausgaben. Bildung und Ausbildung, Stipendienprogramme, Suchtbekämpfung, vieles, worauf auch die Mittelschicht angewiesen ist, wird gekappt.

Es lohnte sich, dieser Tage noch einmal die Folge der US-Serie „House of Cards“ anzusehen, in der Frank Underwood, fiktiver US-Präsident, eine Fernsehansprache an sein Volk hält, um radikale Kürzungen der Sozialprogramme anzukündigen. Der zentrale Satz lautet: „You are entitled to nothing.“ Ihr habt auf gar nichts Anspruch. Das ist ein programmatischer Satz für Serie und Wirklichkeit. Nicht nur die internationale Staatengemeinschaft und Europa müssen ihr Schicksal selbst in die Hand nehmen. Das gilt für jede Amerikanerin und jeden Amerikaner. Im Guten war das mal der amerikanische Traum. Heute ist es der amerikanische Albtraum.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at June 02, 2017 04:38 PM

June 01, 2017

Berkman Center front page
AI Advance

Subtitle

A Community Convening at Harvard Law School to advance the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative

Teaser

Reflecting and engaging on the societal challenges of AI and related technologies

Thumbnail Image: 

On May 15, 2017, the Berkman Klein Center in collaboration with the Media Lab hosted “AI Advance,” a convening of 120 community members, including faculty, researchers, students, and fellows, in order to reflect and engage on the societal challenges of AI and related technologies, forge collaborations, and start to design research programs.

A short summary can be found here

During AI Advance, the term “AI” was used in a broad sense to describe complex decision-making algorithms fueled by public and private datasets, rather than as a strict computer science term of art. Such technologies are widely employed today to guide corporate processes (such as insurance and financial risk analysis) and some public ones (such as in criminal sentencing in some jurisdictions); fully automated versions govern how news, updates, and advertising are presented to hundreds of millions of people via online social networks.

The event was meant as a community kickoff. The photos, videos, and summaries below capture some of the topics, concerns, and hopes expressed by attendees about the ethics and governance of AI. (The event adds to earlier AI ethics conversations led by Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Iyad Rahwan, associate professor at the Media Lab and an architect of Moral Machine, an interactive tool to explore moral questions that autonomous vehicle AI systems might need to make.) Not all members of the expanding AI community were able to attend. Still, the event offered a window into some of the relevant activities across the Berkman Klein Center and Media Lab that inform the joint AI initiative.

Read our Medium post

by djones at June 01, 2017 05:51 PM

May 31, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
CRCS Publishes New Paper, Presents at 9th Usinex Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing
May 31, 2017

Faculty Director Margo Seltzer, postdoc Thomas Paquier, and graduate student Xueyuan Han have co-authored a paper on fault-detection through runtime analyis of provenance: 

Xueyuan Han, Thomas Pasquier, Tanvi Ranjan, Mark Goldstein, and Margo Seltzer. 2017. "FRAPpuccino: Fault-Detection through Runtime Analysis of Provenance." 9th USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing (HotCloud 17). 

Han will present the paper at the 9th Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing on July 10 - 11 in Santa Clara, CA.

Read more about CRCS Publishes New Paper, Presents at 9th Usinex Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing

by Gabriella Fee at May 31, 2017 03:29 PM

May 29, 2017

ProjectVRM
Customertech Will Turn the Online Marketplace Into a Marvel-Like Universe in Which All of Us are Enhanced

enhanced-by-customertech

We’ve been thinking too small.

Specifically, we’ve been thinking about data as if it ought to be something big, when it’s just bits.

Your life in the networked world is no more about data than your body is about cells.

What matters most to us online is agency, not data. Agency is the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power (Merriam-Webster).

Nearly all the world’s martech and adtech assumes we have no more agency in the marketplace than marketing provides us, which is kind of the way ranchers look at cattle. That’s why bad marketers assume, without irony, that it’s their sole responsibility to provide us with an “experience” on our “journey” down what they call a “funnel.”

What can we do as humans online that isn’t a grace of Apple, Amazon, Facebook or Google?

Marshall McLuhan says every new technology is “an extension of ourselves.” Another of his tenets is “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Thus Customertech—tools for customers—will inevitably enlarge our agency and change us in the process.

For example, with customertech, we can—

Compared to what we have in the offline world, these are superpowers. When customertech gives us these superpowers, the marketplace will become a Marvel-like universe filled with enhanced individuals. Trust me: this will be just as good for business as it will be for each of us.

We can’t get there if all we’re thinking about is data.

By the way, I made this same case to Mozilla in December 2015, on the last day I consulted the company that year. I did it through a talk called Giving Users Superpowers at an all-hands event called Mozlando. I don’t normally use slides, but this time I did, leveraging the very slides Mozilla keynoters showed earlier, which I shot with my phone from the audience. Download the slide deck here, and be sure to view it with the speaker’s notes showing. The advice I give in it is still good.

BTW, a big HT to @SeanBohan for the Superpowers angle, starting with the title (which he gave me) for the Mozlando talk.

 

 

by Doc Searls at May 29, 2017 07:12 PM

David Weinberger
The Internet is an agreement

Jaap van Till has posted an aggregation of thoughts and links to remind us of what it seems we have so much trouble remembering: The Internet is not a thing but an agreement.

An internet, network of networks, is a voluntary agreement among network operators to exchange traffic for their mutual benefit. (The Internet is a prototype internet.) That’s all — it’s an agreement.

That’s from an earlier post by Jaap, which along the way links out to the World of Ends post that Doc Searls and I wrote in 2003 that aimed at explaining the Internet to legislators.

I sense that we are due for a shift in tides, maybe over the next two years, in which the point that needs making is not that the Internet is dangerous and sucks, but that it it is dangerous and sucks and is the greatest invention in the history of our species. Cf. Virginia Heffernan, Magic and Loss.)

This pendulum swing can’t come soon enough.

The post The Internet is an agreement appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 29, 2017 03:06 PM

May 26, 2017

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Congratulations, HLS Class of 2017!

Version 2This past Wednesday — May 24th, 2017 — marked Class Day at Harvard Law School, which takes place each year one day before the University-wide commencement ceremonies.  It’s one of our favorite days of the year here at the Cyberlaw Clinic, because it gives us the chance to host an annual get-together for graduating Clinic alums and their families and friends.  

Version 3ThiThis year’s celebration came at the end of a fantastic Class Day lineup, with the esteemed Sally Yates offering an inspirational set of remarks, our good friend Mark Wu accepting the 2017 Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence, and Cyberlaw Clinic alum (and 2016-17 Berkman Klein Center Fellow) Crystal Nwaneri receiving the David Westfall Memorial Award for Community Leadership.

Version 2It also came at the end of a great academic year for us in the Clinic, with the addition of two phenomenal new teacher-practitioners (Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz) to the Clinic team; collaborations with a slate of Clinic Advisors that included Nani Jansen ReventlowErica Tennyson, and Waide Warner; amicus filings on issues ranging from the right of estate administrators to access a decedent’s emails to the scope of the Massachusetts Anti-SLAPP statute; and some high-profile forays into questions about Internet jurisdiction and the territorial reach of online takedown orders.  All of this happened against the backdrop of our usual array of discrete client advising projects, which had our students addressing everything from the risk of liability for researchers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; to copyright and fair use in the context of archival digitization efforts; to the impacts of global law reform efforts on free expression; to privacy concerns raised by innovative classroom technologies.

The Cyberlaw Clinic team extends its heartfelt congratulations to graduates in the Harvard Law School class of 2017 and wishes them well in all of their future endeavors!

Photos of graduating students Richard Gadsden (HLS JD ’17) and Miranda Means (HLS JD ’17), graduating student Jennifer Luh (HLS JD ’17) and HLS Clinical Professor Susan Crawford, and graduating students Alicia Solow-Niederman (HLS JD ’17) and Nehaa Chaudhari (HLS LLM ’17), courtesy of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society‘s intrepid Digital Media Producer, Dan Jones.

by Clinic Staff at May 26, 2017 02:46 PM

Miriam Meckel
Die Furcht vor großem Denken

Mit den 54 Milliarden Euro Steuermehreinnahmen kann man die Bürger entlasten. Oder Deutschland digital anschlussfähig machen.

Wo ist er hin, der Mut mal einen richtig großen Schritt Richtung Zukunft zu gehen? Wir könnten Deutschland in die Poleposition bringen. Mal eine politische Entscheidung der Vernunft treffen zugunsten der Generationen, die nach uns kommen. Mal nicht am Tisch der großkoalitionären Kompromisse am kleinsten gemeinsamen Nenner kleben bleiben.

Bis zum Jahr 2021 wird der Staat nach Berechnungen des Arbeitskreises Steuerschätzung 54 Milliarden Euro mehr Steuereinnahmen verbuchen als bislang geplant. Das ist eine gute Nachricht. Die schlechte folgt noch über dem Strich. CSU-Chef Horst Seehofer verspricht für die kommende Legislaturperiode eine „große, wuchtige Steuerreform“. Hörte man von irgendeiner politischen Seite wenigstens mal eine große wuchtige Idee, wie man das Geld zugunsten zukünftigen Wohlstands und gleichbleibender Wettbewerbsfähigkeit einsetzen könnte, es gäbe wenigstens die Chance auf eine Debatte, wie Deutschland seine Zukunft denken will. Aber die Ambitionen zu solchen visionären Gedanken liegen bei allen Parteien auch im Monat Mai noch im Winterschlaf.

Unterm Strich kriegen wir also wieder Weihnachten im Sommer – einen Wahlkampf der Steuerentlastungspläne, der sich nur um die Frage dreht: Wer verspricht mehr? Doch die Versprechen werden in den Runden zur Aushandlung einer nächsten Koalition einige der Gaben sein, die so lange unter dem Weihnachtsbaum ein- und wieder ausgewickelt werden, bis nur Packpapier übrig bleibt.

Es ist richtig, den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern etwas zurückzugeben, wenn sich die Staatsfinanzen besser gestalten als erwartet. Aber es gibt auch Probleme, die sich nicht allein im Vertrauen darauf lösen lassen, dass jeder Einzelne schon freiwillig dazu beitragen wird. Dazu gehört Deutschlands miserabler Fortschritt bei der Digitalisierung. Allein 23.000 Gewerbegebiete werden ihrem Namen nicht mehr gerecht, weil dort digital nichts läuft. Die Leitung, auf der die Politik in Berlin steht, gibt’s da gar nicht.

Warum hat niemand den Mut, mal groß zu denken? 80 Milliarden Euro wird es kosten, ganz Deutschland mit einem schnellen Glasfasernetz auszustatten. Jetzt ist die Zeit, das zu tun. Und dabei gibt es gleich noch die Chance auf eine kleine politische Gewinnmitnahme. Immer wieder wird am deutschen Handelsbilanzüberschuss herumkritisiert. Mit solch einem Investitionsvolumen hätte man ein handfestes Argument, um es den Dauernörglern entgegenzuhalten. Schließlich: Auch für die Bildung wäre das ein Riesenschritt. Deutschland hat keine Ressourcen außer hervorragend ausgebildete junge Menschen, die nächsten Unternehmerinnen der Digitalzeit.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat den großen Steuerentlastungsplänen zwar eine Absage erteilt. 15 Milliarden Euro sind mit ihr drin. Auf die Ideen für digitales Wachstum warten wir noch. Auf jedes Investitionstöpfchen kommt ein Deckel. Auf jedes Köpfchen leider auch.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at May 26, 2017 01:35 PM

May 23, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Can We Talk?: An Open Forum on Disability, Technology, and Inclusion

Subtitle

featuring Professors Elizabeth Ellcessor and Meryl Alper with guests

Parent Event

Event Date

May 23 2017 12:00pm to May 23 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 
Pictured are Professor Elizabeth Ellcessor and Professor Meryl Alper

Tuesday, May 23 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

This event was co-hosted by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Harvard Law School Dean of Student's Office, Accessibility Services.

Can we talk? The question (a favorite prompt of the late comedian Joan Rivers) evokes a feeling of being intimately and sometimes uncomfortably open, frank, and honest, both with others and ourselves. This event, a conversation between Prof. Elizabeth Ellcessor (Indiana University) and Prof. Meryl Alper (Northeastern University, Berkman Klein Center​), points the question at the topic of disability, technology, and inclusion in public and private, and in digital and digitally-mediated spaces. Ryan Budish (Berkman Klein Center) and Dylan Mulvin (Microsoft Research) will serve as discussants.

Can we talk?, with respect to different degrees of potential access (in its social, cultural, and political forms) that new media constrains and affords for individuals with disabilities. Can we talk?, with respect to who does and does not take part in the ongoing research, development, and critique of accessible communication technologies. Can we talk?, with respect to whether or not talking, or its corollary "voice," is an adequate metaphor for conversation, participation, and agency?

Alper and ​Ellcessor and will draw upon their recent respective books, ​Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017) and ​Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation (NYU Press, 2016). Both books will be available for purchase and signing.

If you have any questions about arriving at or getting into this event, please do not hesitate to reach out to Carey Andersen at candersen@cyber.law.harvard.edu or at 617-495-7547. Wasserstein Hall, Room 3018 is fully accessible.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth (Liz) Ellcessor is an assistant professor in the Media School at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Her research focuses on the ways that digital media technologies can both expand and limit people’s access to culture and civil society. Bringing together cultural studies, disability studies, and critical media industry studies, she uses a range of qualitative and historical methods. Focusing on those on the margins–particularly people with disabilities–exposes gaps in mainstream narratives about technological progress, user participation, and engagement with mediated culture.

Additionally, Liz has conducted research on performances of online identity, including social media celebrity, activism, and deception.

Liz teaches a range of courses, from introductory undergraduate courses in media studies to specialized doctoral seminars. Her courses aim to make the familiar strange, providing new details and perspectives with which students can reconsider taken for granted elements of their digitally mediated lives. Additionally, she uses strategies of universal design to make courses accessible for as many students as possible, incorporating captioned content, flexible assignment structures and timelines, and multiple forms of student participation.

Liz is a founding co-chair of the Media, Science, and Technology Studies scholarly interest group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

About Meryl

Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University and a Faculty Associate with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern, she earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and History from Northwestern University, as well as a certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA.

Alper’s research explores the social implications of communication technologies for individuals with disabilities, children, and families. In particular, she studies the opportunities and challenges that media and technology provide young people with developmental disabilities and their families in the digital age. She integrates theoretical, empirical, and archival methods in this work and employs a historical, sociological, and critical/cultural perspective.

Alper has worked for over a decade in the children’s media industry. As an undergraduate at Northwestern, she was Lab Assistant Manager in the NSF-funded Children’s Digital Media Center/Digital-Kids Lab and interned in the Education & Research Department at Sesame Workshop in New York. Post graduation, she worked in Los Angeles as a Research Manager for Nick Jr., conducting formative research for the Emmy-nominated educational preschool television series Ni Hao, Kai-lan and The Fresh Beat Band.

Alper is the author of Digital Youth with Disabilities (MIT Press, 2014) and Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017). Her research has been published in New Media & Society, International Journal of Communication, and IEEE Annals of the History ofComputing, among other journals. She has been awarded four Top Paper awards by the International Communication Association for her sole-authored work across multiple ICA divisions. Her research and popular writing has also been featured in a range of venues, including The GuardianThe AtlanticMotherboard, and Wired.

About Ryan

Ryan Budish is a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center.  Ryan joined the Berkman Klein Center in 2011 as a Fellow and the Project Director of Herdict.  In his time at Berkman Klein, Ryan has contributed policy and legal analysis to a number of projects and reports, and he has led several significant initiatives relating to Internet censorship, corporate transparency about government surveillance, and multistakeholder governance mechanisms.

 

About Dylan

Dylan Mulvin is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a member of the Social Media Collective. He joined the collective after completing his PhD at McGill University. Dylan is a historian of technology, media, and computing whose work investigates the design and maintenance of new technologies.  He examines how engineers, scientists, technicians, and bureaucrats make decisions about how to develop shared understandings of the world.

Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

TRANSCRIPT: Can We Talk? 

DYLAN: Hi Everyone. Thank you for being here. It's my great pleasure and privilege to introduce today's speakers. Liz Ellcessor has been since an Assistant Professor in the Media School at Indiana University, Bloomington, as well as an affiliate faculty member in the department of of Gender and Women's Studies in the Cultural Studies program. She will be starting a position in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia very, very shortly.

Liz works at the intersection of Cultural Studies, Media Studies and Disability Studies. Her research and teaching interests include media history, access, and literacy, as well as social media, participatory culture, celebrity, and performance of the self. She is the author of Restricted Access: media disability and the politics of participation from NYU press last year, and co-editor with Bill Kirkpatrick of Disability Media Studies, which is forthcoming from NYU.

Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University and a faculty associate here at The Berkman Klein Center. Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern she earned her Doctorate and Master's degrees from the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Meryl has worked for over a decade in the children's media industry. As an undergraduate at Northwestern she was the lab assistant manager in the NSF-funded Children's Digital Media Center/Digital Kids Lab. She interned with the education and research department at Sesame Workshop in New York. Maybe you've heard of it. [Laughter from the audience]. Post graduation she worked in LA as a research manager for Nick Jr. conducting formative research for the Emmy-nominated educational preschool television series Ni Hao Ki Ian and the Fresh Beat Band. Meryl is the author of Digital Youth with Disabilities, MIT Press, and Giving Voice: mobile communication disability and inequality, MIT Press, this year. You may have also seen her writing in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Motherboard, and Wired.

Ryan Budish is a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center. Ryan joined the Berkman Klein Center in 2011 as a Fellow and the Project Director of Herdict. In his time here Ryan has contributed policy and legal analysis to a number of projects and reports and he's led several significant initiatives related to internet censorship, corporate transparency about government surveillance, and multi stakeholder governance mechanisms.

I should also say that Meryl and Liz have each published outstanding books in the past year. They're in the center of my field at least and while Giving Voice by Meryl and Restricted Access by Liz offer rigorous analyses of lives lived with disabilities in the 21st Century, they're also offering very fundamental reconsiderations of what it means to study media and communication and technology, and both books are totally worth your time and it's a great privilege to have you all here today.

So I'm going to hand it over to Meryl and we'll start today's event.

MERYL: So Liz and I we're playing off one another a little bit in the sense that each of our books focuses particularly on a key term. Mine "voice" and Liz's "Access" and as you might have read in the introduction to this event on the event site, "Can we talk?" we think is a really evocative question. We'll pull in threads from each of our discussions. It pulls upon ability, collective notions and actions of what it means to participate. So my presentation is Can We Talk… About Voice?

So in my work, just to pull together what Dylan so graciously said, I study the social implications of communication technology with a focus on the role of digital and mobile media in the lives of young people, but particularly in the lives of young people with developmental disabilities. So that's in particular autistic youth and young people with significant communication impairments particularly related to something called childhood apraxia of speech, which is basically when the brain has difficulty coordinating the the body parts that are needed to talk. So I think about communication across different levels. So some of these young people instead of talking in ways that you might think of in the traditional sense, use some thing like what Stephen Hawking uses, but nowadays instead of having to necessarily use a device that is bigger, more expensive, breaks, and takes a long time to replace, you could potentially use… What I have pictured on the bottom here is an iPad with this one app called Proloquo2Go and you can select text and icons and it will fill in this top white bar and you can press the bar and speech will be output. The language the software uses is a little less sophisticated than what can be created in a bigger computer than that, but it can do a lot of work. So with those unfamiliar, some of these technologies, sometimes they're called voice output communication aids speech generating devices or augmentative and alternative communication devices, which is ironically a mouthful to say. So I'm just going to say AAC for short.

So because the users of these technologies don't talk in the traditional sense and because they use speech generating devices to communicate, the popular press has historically referred to these types of technologies in a way in which the users of them get figured as voiceless. So the top headline says, it's from the LA Times, it says “Electronic Help for the Handicapped: The Voiceless Break Their Silence”. That's a headline about a technology called the Canon Communicator. So Canon the company you might think of as cameras produced a device that was specifically focused on voice and voice output. Or, sorry, electronic voice generation. Pretty similar headline. This is about the iPad giving voice to kids with autism. But the question I'm really interested in is “What does it mean for technology to give voice to the voiceless?” And, “Who does that phrase actually help or hurt in the process?”

So to answer that question I'm going to discuss three things. I'm going to talk first about the broader significance of this phrase "Giving voice to the voiceless". It's a phrase you might have heard but not necessarily taken a critical angle towards. Why it's an important concept to critique especially for people with disabilities. And third, how thinking differently about voice and voicelessness in this way, I think, can more broadly create meaningful change around technology and ethical considerations more broadly.

Speaking of ethics... So before I go much further I also want to make clear that I do not personally identify as having a disability. I am also a white, cis, straight, upper-middle class woman. So I'm sensitive to the power inherent in interpreting and sharing the experiences of others through my analytic lens. But I also believe that disability is at the heart of the human experience.

I think this picture here gets at that. So it's a picture taken by Tom Olin at an ADA march in the early 90s. People of various racial backgrounds, people with various physical and what not disabilities marching under a banner of Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." So I think that something that is really brought out in this picture is that despite structures that systematically isolate and remove people with disabilities from the center of society, we have to think about the ways in which how we define the ways it means to be human and then even within that I would say because there is the MLK quote here about the intersections of disability with other kinds of identities and other potentialities for marginalization as well. With that being said, what does it mean to give voice to the voiceless? What does "giving voice" mean?

We might locate its origins biblically. In the New International version Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute.” So not only do you get allusions about voice and speaking but also a class dimension to this as well. We might locate in terms of how this is traced through different professional groups, different actors in the public sphere, journalists. This a screenshot of the Society of Professional Journalists… Their Code of Ethics. And one line of this is that a key journalistic duty is to be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.

Moving from just sort of actors to also thinking about other kinds of technologies we can think about an endless list of things. Whether it's civic media, Twitter, or Open Data as pictured here as sort of giving voice. This is from the Open Data Institute Summit 2015. The speaker's talk is "Citizen empowerment giving a voice to the voiceless." All too often though we consider this background, disability becomes instrumental for another purpose outside of just disability focused issues. It tends to represent something broken for technology to repair. So consider this is Microsoft's Super Bowl commercial from 2014. So long after Apple had its big Super Bowl commercial in the 90s it took until 2014 for Microsoft to have its entry point and disability is front and center here. It features NFL player Steve Gleeson who lost the ability to produce oral speech due to ALS and the ad proclaims that the Microsoft Surface Pro which is pictured here has given voice to the voiceless. And this gets exemplified by Gleeson himself providing the voiceover for the commercial. So we can say and I don't have the time to play the commercial but encourage you to take a look at it in its entirety but we can say then that giving voice to the voiceless means a couple of things. It means that voice is used as a metaphor for for agency and self-representation, that voicelessness is is imagined as a stable and natural category so the voiceless is a thing that we can locate and as a sort of immutable thing, and technology is figured as a direct opportunity, this frictionless opportunity, for expression. So there is a lot to critique about each of those kinds of claims. But why do I think it's particularly important to do so? Particularly at this moment in time. That's because based on the ethnographic research that I conducted despite these widespread claims to "give voice to the voiceless" communication technologies that are intended to universally empower are still subject to disempowering structural inequalities and especially for people with disabilities.

So in my book "Giving Voice" I argue that efforts to better include disabled individuals within society through primarily technological interventions when all we do is fetishize and focus on the technology for whatever kind of commercial or affective reasons, we miss the opportunity to take into account all the other ways in which culture, law, policy and even the design of these technologies themselves can marginalize and exclude. So the book is based on a 16 month ethnographic study that I conducted of young people who use the iPad and that Proloquo2Go app. Kids about 3 to 13. I spent some time observing them getting trained how to use the technologies at home with speech pathologists, I followed them to different user groups that young people would use to talk to one another in, I went to parent conferences. I also started to interview different kinds of assistive technology administrators that were in the local Southern California area and lots of variations across more resourced and less resourced school districts, larger and small ones, to get a sense of what were the other kinds of systems that were shaping the adoption, use or potentially the non-use of these technologies.

So in terms of culture I'm just going to go through three examples quickly. Most speech generating devices are in English. The ones that are given to kids in US schools. At home that is not something that everyone uses to speak. You automatically can create a disconnect there between what a home culture is and what a school culture is. So one specialist I talked to said, "There are hundreds of languages in these schools. One of the kids I work with at home his parents speak Korean. Any kind of assistive communication system they wouldn't use it because they don't speak it. It's a big issue. We are stuck just doing school-based, which is fine, that's our job, but it's hard. It's hard to support them across the board because we can't.” So we could say that here voice is given but then it's also simultaneously muted.

With respect to law, assistive technologies are also quite bluntly borne of a world in which half of the people who die at the hands of police have a disability. There's a 2016 report from the Ruderman Family Foundation if you want to take a greater look at that. But this is something that Danny's dad Peter tapped into when he talked about a fear that a police officer might mistake his son reaching for his communication device as reaching for a weapon. So he said "I need him to be able to gesture 'yes' and 'no'. If a cop's asking him questions and has got a gun on him no cop in the world is going to allow him to grab a talker." So this awareness of the limits of any given piece of technology in a particular context around justice and injustice was something that participants were keenly aware of. That is not necessarily something that is reflected in this broader discourse. So giving voice can also run the risk of being silenced. Quite literally permanently.

Lastly all of this has to be understood in a larger policy backdrop. So school district policies what I found tend to promote their financial investments protecting those more so than promoting students' continued growth. This is something that Moira's mom Vanessa related to in her story. So in Southern California kids had been throwing the iPads into pools this is what the mom was told and because of that the school decided that they were not going to allow the kids to take those iPads off campus even though they were federally mandated to provide the child a way in which to communicate with others. So we're bounding that within the school. And the ability to challenge that is completely shaped by one's access to other kinds of resources: financial aid, legal assistance, and social capital. So Vanessa said to me, "The school district changed their policy and said that iPads only remained on campus,” which was in voilation of Moira's IEP. I wrote them and said 'This is in violation, I'm asking that you give me a window of opportunity to purchase her a device for the home.’ One morning I was like, 'I don't want to send this iPad to school.' I of course gave it to her and it didn't come home."

So we could say here also yes voice is given but then it's taken away. So how does one particular kind of case get at some of these larger frameworks with which we understand technology and ethics. So my overall takeaway is that we should keep voices attached to people. So I'm drawing here on an historian, Katherine Oft, who's at the Smithsonian. She's written an introduction to this book, this is a picture of the cover, it's called Artificial Parts Practical Lives Modern Histories of Prosthetics and she writes, "Focus on the materiality of the body not only or exclusively its abstract and metaphoric meanings. Keeping prostheses attached to people limits the kinds of claims and interpretive leaps a writer can make." So I think as well staying very close to the body, staying very close to the material and embodied aspects of voice is the only way for us to understand the uses and abuses of voice in relation to other kinds of inequalities and injustices.

I will just go through two applications of this in terms of what I use with my students to talk about politics in two ways: politics in sort of 'Big P Politics' so electoral politics and 'little p politics' which is power and its various manifestations. And those two things are related to one another but its a simple way to kind of split it up. Trigger warning there is a picture of Donald Trump on the next slide. I'm just letting you know. [Audience laughs]. So with Big P Politics we need to keep voices attached to citizens in our democracy. Despite Donald Trump's demagogic insistence that he is literally our voice This is New York Times, July 22nd, 2016. Front page of newyorktimes.com. This is right after Trump's acceptance speech at the INC Convention "Trump Pledges..." Headline, it's a picture of Trump smiling and a very large close up version of him smiling in the background projected on the screen, and it says "Trump Pledges Order and Says I Am Your Voice". Let's think about that in relation to ways in which people with disabilities potentially have some quibbles with that. So this is a screenshot from CNN's projection of at the DNC a disabled self-advocate Anastasia Somoza directly responding to Trump's call saying, “Donald Trump doesn't hear me he doesn't see me and he definitely doesn't speak for me.” So this pulling through of ways in which voice is getting used and abused in particular ways, it is not something that people with disabilities are... They are the ones that we need to look to and draw upon sort of histories of resources in which to grapple with the uses of language in ways that more often exclude than include.

On a technological aspect nowadays there's a lot of interest in voice activated technologies so Siri and Alexa and in some ways those can be really accessible. Those can add, if you have motor limitations, other ways to access. But we have to think about what kinds of voices get picked up. This is just a headline that says "Voice is the next big platform..." But then here's another headline from Scientific American "Why Siri won't listen to millions of people with disabilities.” There are particular ways in which voices are recognized or are not recognized. Let alone just the kinds of voices that can be produced by a given piece of technology. So ideas about the normal here and what it means to have a voice or more critical considerations. So to wrap up, technologies that give a voice to the voiceless can also reproduce structural inequalities. Having a voice and being heard are not necessarily the same things at all. And they're also not just about technology. But also about social cultural and economic resources. And having access to which is unevenly distributed.

My book centers the iPad but it's interesting because I am really interested in what some people might call an edge case or you know a sort of outside case but I really believe there's something to think about marginalization and participation that is really actually super central to to what we're all trying to get at in terms of understanding what it means to participate. So we need to keep voices materially attached to people in how we build our technology or else the risk is tantamount to dismantling... Or if we can say the structure of democracy has been stable to begin with... Also an open question. But at stake is not only which voices get to speak but who's thought to have a voice to speak with in the first place. And that's my talk. [Applause from the audience].

LIZ: Alright so thank you for having me here today. I am happy to have a chance to talk about this work in conjunction with Meryl's work because we've been batting around some of the same ideas regarding access, voice, participation, and technology and disability. I've been framing my work as essentially cultural studies of technology. I'm attempting to understand how technologies reflect and reproduce particular dynamics of power and how users of technologies can push back upon those constructions and challenge these sort of received ways in which technologies are developed along certain assumptions. I'm going to be reading from my phone because I get lost on a large piece of paper.

To start off here we have some images reflecting a sort of pervasive utopianism in talking about the internet World Wide Web and related technologies. At the top right is an image from MCI's "Anthem Commercial". This young person appears speaking in American Sign Language right before text that reads "There are no infirmities." The TIME 2006 "Person of the Year" was You with a big reflective cover. And then this bottom photo is a screenshot from a Yahoo! advertisement from 2009 called "It's You" prioritizing this kind of individual empowerment and excitement around new technologies. At various points these technologies have been understood as democratizing globalizing something that can eradicate racial gender and disability difference and something that can open economic and social opportunities. From the hype of cyberspace to the celebrations of Web 2.0 we see that stories of technology are often stories of endless possibility. In "Restricted Access" I am attempting to intervene in some of these celebrations. by investigating digital media accessibility the processes by which digital media is made useable by people with disabilities and arguing for the necessity of conceptualizing access in a way that will be more variable and open opportunity in new ways. So after all I argue if digital media only open up these opportunities to people who are already relatively privileged in terms of their ability to access technology then their progressive potential remains unrealized. If not transformed into a means of upholding those varying inequalities.

Now what is media accessibility, web accessibility? This is something I often illustrate with this slide which is just a screen shot of the homepage of The New York Times as run through the Web Accessibility and Minds Online Accessibility Checker. This is an automatic software tool that will check the HTML and associated code of a web page and flag with little red or yellow icons where there might be a problem. So in this case the page is being flagged for not describing the image that reads "New York Times", for not describing the small images, and for having some incorrect form usage. Now accessibility is a fascinating case because it is a very granular process. Essentially web content accessibility comes out of non-governmental policy sources such as the World Wide Web Consortium. It has also been taken up in various legal contexts so there are laws in the United States that require accessibility in some contexts and there are arguments that the ADA requires web accessibility in many contexts. However, these policies are written in such a way that to facilitate the use of consumer technology with the kinds of adaptive and assistive technologies that Meryl gestured towards. Things like screen readers, alternative input devices like tongue typers, joysticks, these technologies are often key in allowing people with disabilities to use technology, and accessibility ensures that software will work with those technologies. However, accessibility generally has to be implemented by individual companies, developers, website operators, and is therefore a highly distributed phenomenon. There is no automatic way of understanding where this happens. Thus a lot of my research has involved tracking digital media accessibility through the policy makers people working with the World Wide Web Consortium, people working in government, in academic contexts, as well as with developers, consultants sometimes marketing departments are in charge of accessibility, internal standards, a lot of major corporations have their own accessibility standards that are different to what we see in the public sphere, and so in these terms accessibility may be understood in highly bureaucratic and technical ways. It creates a kind of base line from which there is a possibility that people with disabilities may then access and use digital media.

In thinking about accessibility, however, it is important to think about the terminology. Because "accessibility" like "access" is an often-used term that is not always attached to these kinds of specialized meanings. I often see accessibility invoked to refer to new possibilities. The graphical user interface made desktop computing more accessible to a large number of people. Even as it very much shut down access for people who are visually impaired. Right, so we use access deployed in various contexts. Additionally, access to media and information technologies has been addressed in a wide range of academic literatures. From digital divides work to work on public broadcasting community television media literacy and media policy work. But in all of these areas access is dominantly figured as something which is "had". Do you "have" access? A sort of unitary and universally desired endpoint. Do you have access? It is good to have access. And in addition to this sort of positive and linear framing the concept of access is often deployed in such a way as to stand in for "availability" (you have access to the telephone lines as they connect to your house even if you don't have a telephone), "affordability" (this is a subsidized service so therefore in some sort of way therefore it is more accessible), or "consumer choice" (you have access to  cable channels whether you want them all or not). So "access" is a flexible term. But when we center disability and accessibility and their specialized senses the gaps in some of these literatures and usages emerge. In fact, it seems that access is inherently variable. It's dependant upon bodies, contacts, and a host of other factors. When we say "check Facebook" we are potentially engaged in a wide range of technological and social practices that vary from person to person. As argued by Canadian disabilities scholar Tanya Titchkosky quote "every single instance of life can be regarded as tied to access. To do anything is to have some form of access." Thus rather than think of access as a binary or linear progression disability studies encourages us to conceive of it as a continually relationally produced means of engaging with the world. So we don't "have" access we are "doing" access.

Now in "Restricted Access" I use this a sort of jumping off point for thinking about how then can we study access as an infinitely variable and complicated phenomenon. Right? This is starting to sound impossible if every construction of access is different. And thus I've been using the metaphor of a kind of "Access Kit" illustrated here with a sewing kit with a pair of scissors, some safety pins, needles, a thimble, other things you use for sewing... I'm not a sewer. However, I use this metaphor because I like the idea of a kit in that you can use it all together to do what it's intended for. You can use this to sew. Or you can take pieces and parts and use them differently. You might cut up something in your kitchen, you might use the safety pin to make a punk t-shirt or signal your safety in a post Donald Trump world. You may recombine these in different ways. And thus in sort of figuring access kit what are some sort of categories of questions? What are some sort of ways that we can dig into access that will allow us to look through some different lenses at how that access is being created?

I'm not going to go into detail here except to say that I sort of loosely grouped these into categories of regulation, use, form, content, and experience. Which I can talk about later. And together they encourage us to think about access as a relational phenomenon. Drawing attention to what a cultural studies perspective might call the articulations of bodies, technologies, institutions, geographies, and social identities. So access is not one thing but many. Not an end point but also not a beginning. Nico Carpentier has referred to access as a precondition for participation before we can participate we must access but through the study of digital media accessibility for disability it's become evident to me that the production of access is an ongoing part of participation in a digitally mediated society.

Now one of my favourite examples in the book is the case of Tumblr. As some of you probably know Tumblr is a multimedia microblogging platform that is characterized by the sharing or reblogging of posts across the network the formation of interest groups and a lesser emphasis on individual identity display. Than many social networks. It is however populated by user generated content and thus not obviously bound by the legal and technical requirements faced in government educational or ecommerce spaces. Perhaps as a result Tumblr is formally inaccessible. It is difficult to add alternate text to images even if you wanted to and knew how. It features infinite scroll which can be a challenge for many assistive technologies and it uses very limited mark up features to indicate importance. Additionally, the content is highly variable and often animated. Adding additional challenges from an accessibility perspective. So from a sort of top down perspective the inaccessibility of Tumblr seems like a problem. However, in my work I've tried to couple the institutional perspective with a more on the ground user perspective. I did roughly 25 interviews with disabled users about how they use these technologies and why and what was frustrating. In these interviews I've got on the one hand people telling me that they contact Tumblr and talked about the accessibility policies and were just totally rebuffed. Tumblr was not interested in talking to them did not change anything. However, they also pointed towards group pages such as Accessibility Fail and F Yeah Accessibility as other places they were in fact finding community and using this platform. In some of these cases users were adopting and adapting Tumblr sharing experiences of micro aggressions sharing accessibility knowledge teaching each other workarounds by which to make a site more accessible. Furthermore, this kind of grassroots accessibility revealed some different meanings of access and the values associated with it.

While accessibility is often through of as a matter of law policy or technology or the provision of services and a kind of charity model many users were much more likely to talk about it in terms of affective and cultural dimensions. Many prioritized feeling welcomed rather than merely accommodated or being included as members of a community rather than as afterthoughts. Or having their nontechnical needs met. For instance many disabled Tumblr users praised the site because its large social justice community meant that trigger warnings were commonly used. Trigger warnings or as we saw with Donald Trump are a brief indication of when and how content might be upsetting for someone with a particular kind of trauma and they're well beyond the scope of technological accessibility policy. However, as one interviewee told me "Trigger warnings make a site accessible to me." Indicating respect for the emotional and social needs that can often accompany disability.

Building out of such examples I end "Restricted Access" by talking about cultural accessibility as a means of moving towards a more accessible and just future. This moves beyond sort of technocentric notions of accessibility or accommodation and aims to highlight the interrelationships among technological and economic access, cultural representation and production, and access to community in the public sphere. Not simply universal design, cultural accessibility prioritizes the ongoing perspectives and visibility of people with disabilities and it may best be achieved through sort of participatory collaborations between users, policy makers, industries, and others.

I've illustrated this concluding point with a screen shot of actress Teal Shearer who created a web series called "My Gimpy Life" which she funded through Kickstarter. So already we're seeing a sort of host of contemporary digital media technologies brought to bear and in this case Shearer also prioritized disability community and access both on screen and off. The web series had an onscreen credit to the person who produced the close captioning. The Kickstarter page developed over time into more of a community space than a fundraising space and we see a range of relationships and connections forming that potentially enable the formation of community and the movement into a larger civic and public sphere from inclusive cultural spaces.

Ultimately then I would argue that access is not simply a prerequisite to participation, access and participation depend upon one another. Just as access enables participation so does increased participation by diverse people make possible the expansion of access. And I will wrap it up there so that we have some time. [Audience applause].

DYLAN: Okay I'm going to start with one question for the three of you and then we can open it up as quickly as possible to Q&A. So it strikes me that constantly all of our work is constantly playing catch up with lived experience and Ryan I'm thinking of your work with Herdict is in some way is always trying to close that gap between lived experiences of blockages or clogs or censorship online and the point at which there is greater public awareness about those blockages. And scholarship by design is sort of laggy because of the time it takes to dwell on things and the time it takes to publish things so I wonder how each of you think about lagginess with regard to lived experience in each of your projects. Maybe we can start with Ryan.

RYAN: So I'll just first preface my response by saying as Dylan mentioned in my introduction I spend my work days thinking about access to technology and who controls these sort of elements of the web and the internet and our technologies but in my personal life as someone who wears hearing aids I think a lot sort of in the very specific use case of how that technology enables and limits me personally in different ways. And so I found the discussion from Liz and Meryl really interesting and important. So on this question of lagginess you know one of the things that really jumps out at me and I think picks up on something that Meryl was saying was that this question of you know technology reproducing structural inequalities and something that I think is on that point is interesting to me is that I see a lot of convergence going on in technologies that as Meryl's example showed that people can use iPads which are consumer technologies to do things that earlier might have required going through a medical specialist or getting very expensive medical technologies and in the hearing aid market there is a lot of movement now to allow companies to sell things that aren't quite hearing aids but do essentially everything that a hearing aid could do and there is a lot of pros and cons to that approach you know there's the potential that it could lower the cost that a lot of people that don't get hearing aids could suddenly get hearing aids but no longer are they having it fine tuned by a medical professional and all of that and so as you converge sort of mainstream technology and technology that helps people with disabilities in some ways I think that you can turn Meryl's question into or prompt around and say in what ways is all technology reinforcing societal and structural inequalities and you know to Sarah Hendren has talked about how all technology is assistive technology. You know we're not naturally born with the ability to get our emails on our wrists and you know and yet technology enables us to do that. So in what ways is technology that all of us are using in assistive ways reproducing things that maybe we should be taking a closer look at? One example that comes to mind is how autonomous vehicles are certainly something you know to talk about access can potentially allow people who either physically can't drive or they're too old to drive allows them to have mobility as ride sharing services will start using it there is the potential to open up access for lots of people and yet ride sharing and autonomous vehicles often rely very heavily on mapping and so parts of the world are simply not mapped. And those places don't get access. And so there is an example of where technology taken out of the disability context but something that you could characterize at a very basic level as accessibility technology is itself going to potentially reproduce the structural inequalities that places like the favelas in Brazil are very heavily populated but are not mapped will not have access to these technologies. I'm not quite sure that answers your question about lagginess but there are just some bigger questions to me about technology in general and how that's reproducing these inequalities and I think it does raise these questions of you know from a lagginess perspective that we have to sort of think of these things in their broader context and not just in a disability context.

MERYL: I'll just say something very briefly because then I want to make sure we have time for questions but just talking about lag and delay and whether that's a negative or a positive thing or an inevitable thing but I immediately thought of when you brought up you know the relational or the sort of act of access it is a process and not just a product. Thinking about with speech generating devices that it can take a while to create a message for it to then be output for somebody to say. The fluidity with which one might be able to potentially depending on what kind of motor impairment they might or might not have the patience that is required for a conversation partner even if you've got a technology that works well it's top of the line it's fully charged that's a whole other thing can't talk if the thing doesn't have any juice. that the patience that is required of somebody else to follow a pace of conversation that might not be that one that they themselves enact or are use to having with another person. So that process that patience and that is something that is learned and something that somebody who doesn't have a speech disability would have to be able to become better at equipped at. So think about the kinds of personal social and cultural equipment that is needed for participation and that gets sort of like added to the list here just thinking about temporality in that way.

QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: It's just a small comment. I'm from Columbia. We don't have that many resources so we have to come up with creative solutions. The main problem with these kinds of issues is the economies of scale. As the population is not big the market is not providing solutions for them. So for example in the case of deaf people... we create this relay center with sign language. So a person who is deaf could connect to an app and this remote person can translate from sign language so the deaf person can present an exam or have a consultation with a doctor or rely any kind of communication so this is one example of a solution to economies of scale. The other is we buy a country license for a screen reader. So one license is I think $1000 per person per year but if you buy a country license where it's less than $1 per person per year or per computer per year… We buy thousands of thousands of licenses so we can install a license in every internet cafe in every school for example. People are not paying because it's so cheap to charge for so for example the school pays a little and we gather all this money and buy a country license which is tremendously cheaper than paying individually.

LIZ: I hadn't heard about country licenses. That's really fascinating, I want to know more. But in terms of scale we may think about the sort of things that Ryan brought up with mainstreaming as being one way in which mainstream technologies are taking on assistive functions which enables a different kind of scaling When we are talking about assistive technologies that are developed as such they're often very expensive because there's a small market and a lot of research that goes into them. When those can be deployed in consumer devices some of those costs go down but as I think Ryan indicated sometimes oversight goes down as well. You don't have a medical professional adjusting the hearing aids I've been doing some research on emergency lately and you don't really have very good connections to when you're relying on an app to dial it for you. So there are ways in which that is changing.

RYAN: I just had a question about the differences between adults and kids and particularly I think that there is often you know talking about voice and voiceless you know many times kids are voiceless either simply because they aren't at the emotional or intellectual place where they can talk about what is going on or legally their parents speak for them and I know from my personal experience when I was  or  the last thing I wanted to be doing was wearing hearing aids and I didn't want people to ask me about them and if it was my choice I would have just taken them out but luckily it wasn't my choice and so I was wondering if you could talk about some of the differences that you guys have seen in particular you quoted some parents talking about their experiences I'd be interested to hear about how these issues of voice and voiceless and access are different or different challenges emerge when you're dealing with adults versus kids.

LIZ: I've worked primarily with adults and in part that's because when we are looking at disability spaces there is a lot of attention often to K education and to particularly what can be done to help children and there is often a drop off of when those children become adults. So by looking at online spaces where people with disabilities were engaging with one another and creating disability culture I think I get an interesting sort of perspective on what happens after that. Right in that sort of less structured space but obviously for research on kids.

MERYL: I think the kid focus is particularly just from my expertise and background more than anything Even then thirteen tends to become my cut off. Fourteen in the US you're meant to at least federally have a mandate to talk about transition to adulthood and that's where I sort of stop even though you can be like 30 and really be into Elmo and in my first book I talk in Digital Youth with Disabilities talk about age appropriateness and the fluidity with which radical spaces can potentially be created outside of related to interested or related to different cultural spaces like theater performances that have sensory inclusivity sort of mixed aged mixed abilities of all different sort of kinds and I think that with the book a lot of the research in terms of the kids there are the parents that are quoted In the book there are a lot of descriptors of behaviour and of interactions with kids and other individuals I did not have the skill to interview some of the kids in terms of their capacity to use ...the whole point was that they didn't have reliable access to communication and so the challenges of then doing that work outside of triangulating different sort of behaviours and different kinds of expressions vocalizations or excitements in kinds of spaces. I would say for my next book project which is focused on the experiences of autistic youth growing up in the digital age and different kinds of ways that communication happens I'm grappling with that right now in terms of in interviews that I'm doing directly with kids the ways that I talk with them about their media practices. Again some of that is oral and some of that is not and so part of that is sometimes the challenge of presenting fieldwork to an audience and the legibility of that as opposed to sort of just having a video or another kind of recording so that kind of gets at our methods and the ways in which we make our research visible and the ways in which certain kinds of visibilities can unintentionally privilege or reflect certain ways in which the research was or was not conducted.

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE: Hi I have one comment about giving voice to the voiceless. I really liked the point about how voiceless is seen as a means for agency and self presentation. I was just thinking about if you change the headline to something different instead of giving voice to the voiceless to something like "Listen to the Unlistenable" it'll be a totally different focus on instead of on the person who needs to be given a voice it will be on behalf of us to train our listening capacity. So I don't know whether you've thought about that.

MERYL: Yeah so listening and speaking and the dynamics between those things are something that I talk about more in the book and that gets a little bit to... There's a phrase I really really love... A media justice scholar Tanya Draya talks about the partial promise of voice, so voice's incompletion, the partiality of it to fully say that we have any kind of grasp or pindownableness of it because that understanding of respect of a message being acted on and a promise being kept and that's partly in larger public sphere discussions, but I think that point about listening whether one is able to be listened to or not... again that's a... Begin to think about that in a biological individual level a social level a political... You know... what the mechanisms are for feedback but also some of that can sort of reinforce who's in power in the first place. And in what ways can that still enforce an us/them, an essentializing idea of having and not having of giving and not having.

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE: Hi I have a comment then a question. I had the great pleasure and I will say some humility about ten years ago I was teaching at Northeastern for adults and one of my students was a  year old blind man who lost his sight at 78 and I learned the day in the life of someone who is disabled and I had to rearrange my entire… how I was going to structure an exam, because we were in a computer class room and he had to go in a special room and if they didn't have the jaws then I would have to work with the Northeastern Disability Office to have someone come and have a reader read the exam to him and I learned something at the MA Disability… I just say "oh just go to the bookstore and go and get volume 6 of the book for the class" and the one they had for the brail was version 3. Things that we just take for granted. It's just very humbling.

Another time I was at an event where there was a company who had an event at the faculty club where they were talking and saying that many times when they have events here or classes they have closed captioning and they said that many times foreign students to help them learn English are using it. So that's like the number one reason in addition to disability. So my question here is... We're in an area where we have so many startups and just like until recently cyber security and writing secure code is an after thought... disability for many places is like "yeah, yeah, whatever..." Is there anything that can be done to teach the CS students that are coming to our courses, at MIT, here at Harvard, the people who before they start their careers to incorporate it into design so it's not... So let's take it and make it part of how you learn how to create. So you will not have these credible disparities in accessibility.

MERYL: One thing I would say is to read histories of people with disabilities as actors in the history of the development of computing. So the idea that it is more like you're not adding on disability... Like the recovery of people with disabilities in computing history or engineering history is really central to that idea of not developing a sort of charity model of disability pedagogy in a field like CS.

LIZ: I'll just add to that. I've done some work on how web accessibility was explicitly an afterthought in teaching web development for many many years. In the sense that it would be the last chapter of the book Once you've learnt to do everything else maybe you'll look at this but you probably won't. And that's something that's borne out of a lot of computer studies curriculum. They don't have courses on accessibility and basic lessons don't incorporate it as something that you do as part of a process. The International Association of Accessibility Professionals is a young organization maybe four or five years’ old that's explicitly attempting to address that by making some sort of best practices for CS education and offering some certifications for people who have actual training in accessibility to use once they go out into the job market. Then of course there is a whole world of universal design and design for disability and design literatures focused on how to incorporate diverse users at an early stage.

RYAN: I was just going to say that I am somewhat optimistic in this sense right now because I think that when you look at things like wearable technologies and there's so much more focus right now on the mainstream and I think this gets back to this kind of convergence point there is so much more focus right now on human-machine interaction and artificial intelligence and a lot of the technologies that are necessary to make wearables better to make augmented reality better to make autonomous vehicles better the improvements that have been made over the last several years in computer vision technology all of those things will help on this lagginess question I think it's that as more technology and these startups are thinking more about how machines interact with the physical world they're solving some of these problems that maybe have traditionally been have been the after thought problems and they're not approaching it in the mindset of how do we solve problems with people with disabilities but I think that the applications are getting closer and closer so that it's not such a leap to figure out oh we designed this thing now we have to figure out how to apply it in a whole new context but it's actually like oh we now have something that can identify what's going on in this room because we need it for our artificial intelligence technology and that makes it super easy to design something for someone with a visual impairment. So I'm optimistic.

QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE MEMBER: So just a quick comment on that last bit there is an industrial thing called Teach Access it's a consortium of a number of the big companies are trying to put together curricula to distribute throughout a bunch of universities for specifically integrating it into the CS curriculum. There's a lot of trouble there because a lot of the industries are trying to hire people and nobody knows anything about it and so this is actually a pull from industry to try and be able to key that up a little bit. So it's something to look at. I just had a question. A lot of the regulatory issues and the policy issues in accessibility have to do with things around either livelihoods or access to government services these things that are really very instrumental in getting things done in your life. I'm wonder if you could speak a little bit to issues around entertainment or just sociality of just interacting because as much more of our lives become mediated the access of these things become much more critical to just our lives. And I don't see a lot of discussion about that in a lot of disability discussions.

LIZ: I think the place you see the most discussion of that sort of thing is in captioning. Particularly in the past several years as Netflix captioned its content both the activism around that and then the 21st Century Video and Communication Act took some steps towards prioritizing that kind of access But I think it's a really intesting question to think about content and what we're gaining access to and making sure that access to video games and access to pornography are still kinds of access and people with disabilities are not less entitled to things that we think are morally dubious than are other people. So there's certainly some tension there right? Because government doesn't want to get into that if they can avoid it. But I'm encouraged because I see that that's also happening in informal ways. Major league baseball did what's called a structured negotiation where instead of a lawsuit they worked with disabled community members to make websites and streaming baseball games more accessible. So that's something where the mandate for MLB to be accessible is not really there but through some processes of introductions and collaboration you can actually get to places where that content is being addressed but it's very much not from the WC3.

MERYL: There's a chapter in the book that's about centering on... The question is like 'what is an iPad for?' There were these real tensions around whether an iPad was for that app exclusively or whether it was also for all of the other things that any of the other things that a person might use it for and a lot of things that were related to issues around taste related to issues of ownership the idea of whether you had multiple different pieces of those hardware to delineate and make distinctions between what each of those things are for but for me the real lightening strike in that was I was doing an observation and the speech pathologist I was with had very negative things to say about YouTube even though it was clearly something that the kid enjoyed that motivated them to use this app in the first place to communicate but there were lots of values about kids and their iPads and their YouTubes and are shut down and the ways that that particularly extra marginalized families who maybe didn't have access to or the ability to mobilize resources, I want to also phrase it as that way, around English language mobilize resources around community members who had other kinds of access to other kinds of resources social capital the cultural capital to push bak against that person in any way. Especially because an iPad is designed to be a consumption technology not necessarily for creation, and somewhat for circulation, just thinking about the people wanting to take advantage of all of these things that can be done but some of the professional push backs around expertise and it's a mainstream technology but it entered the home through the teachings of somebody with a professionalization and certain sort of things attached to that. More of that in the book.

DYLAN: Okay thanks every again there are books. I'll just say there are books for purchase at the back of the room and thank you so much for coming out. Liz and Meryl and Ryan will be here. A round of applause for our guests. [Audience applauses]. 

by candersen at May 23, 2017 04:00 PM

May 22, 2017

PRX
We’ve Moved!

We have officially moved our blog presence over to Medium.  Follow us there to get all the latest news about PRX, the Podcast Garage, Radiotopia and much more.  See you there!

The post We’ve Moved! appeared first on PRX.

by Maggie Taylor at May 22, 2017 08:43 PM

MediaBerkman
How to regulate the future of finance
US market regulators offer perspectives on the benefits and risks of the financial technology revolution from distributed ledgers, p2p marketplaces and the use of AI in the financial system. Moderated by Patrick Murck -- Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society -- the panel discusses the challenge of regulating through disruption and how federal agencies can modernize their approach to keep up with innovation. John Schindler is an Economist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Jeffrey Bandman is the FinTech Advisor at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Valerie A. Szczepanik is an Assistant Director in the Asset Management Unit of the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). More info on this event here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/05/Fintech

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 22, 2017 05:05 PM

May 18, 2017

David Weinberger
Indistinguishable from prejudice

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” said Arthur C. Clarke famously.

It is also the case that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from prejudice.

Especially if that technology is machine learning. ML creates algorithms to categorize stuff based upon data sets that we feed it. Say “These million messages are spam, and these million are not,” and ML will take a stab at figuring out what are the distinguishing characteristics of spam and not spam, perhaps assigning particular words particular weights as indicators, or finding relationships between particular IP addresses, times of day, lenghts of messages, etc.

Now complicate the data and the request, run this through an artificial neural network, and you have Deep Learning that will come up with models that may be beyond human understanding. Ask DL why it made a particular move in a game of Go or why it recommended increasing police patrols on the corner of Elm and Maple, and it may not be able to give an answer that human brains can comprehend.

We know from experience that machine learning can re-express human biases built into the data we feed it. Cathy O’Neill’s Weapons of Math Destruction contains plenty of evidence of this. We know it can happen not only inadvertently but subtly. With Deep Learning, we can be left entirely uncertain about whether and how this is happening. We can certainly adjust DL so that it gives fairer results when we can tell that it’s going astray, as when it only recommends white men for jobs or produces a freshman class with 1% African Americans. But when the results aren’t that measurable, we can be using results based on bias and not know it. For example, is anyone running the metrics on how many books by people of color Amazon recommends? And if we use DL to evaluate complex tax law changes, can we tell if it’s based on data that reflects racial prejudices?[1]

So this is not to say that we shouldn’t use machine learning or deep learning. That would remove hugely powerful tools. And of course we should and will do everything we can to keep our own prejudices from seeping into our machines’ algorithms. But it does mean that when we are dealing with literally inexplicable results, we may well not be able to tell if those results are based on biases.

In short: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from prejudice.[2]

[1] We may not care, if the result is a law that achieves the social goals we want, including equal and fair treatment of tax players regardless of race.

[2] Please note that that does not mean that advanced technology is prejudiced. We just may not be able to tell.

The post Indistinguishable from prejudice appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 18, 2017 09:21 PM

Juan Carlos De Martin
"Università futura" tour (fase 3)
A maggio sono continuate le presentazioni pubbliche di "Università futura".

Abbiamo iniziato il 2 maggio a Milano, prima alla Statale (con numerosi rappresentanti degli studenti) e a seguire al Politecnico, alla presenza del Rettore Ferruccio Resta.

Il 9 maggio è stato invece il momento dell'Università di Torino, per una discussione coi colleghi Ugo Pagallo, Massimo Durante, Peppino Ortoleva, Franca Roncarolo, Barbara Gagliardi e Anna Masera.

Il 15 maggio sono stato invece all'Università Federico II di Napoli, per una presentazione col Rettore Gaetano Manfredi (attuale presidente CRUI) e i colleghi Giorgio Ventre, Roberto Delle Donne e Guido Trombetti (ex Rettore e ex Presidente CRUI).

Infine presenterò "Università futura" al Salone del Libro di Torino giovedì 18 maggio alle ore 15:30, insieme all'amico e collega Massimo Durante.

by Juan Carlos De Martin at May 18, 2017 08:04 AM

May 17, 2017

Justin Reich
Teaching 21st Century Skills Requires More Than Just Technology
To foster the 21st-century skills of communication and collaboration in students requires more than just access to Google docs.

by Beth Holland at May 17, 2017 09:51 PM

Miriam Meckel
Der Neuling und die Etablierte

Emmanuel Macrons Sieg ist ein Weckruf für Europa: Weiter so geht nicht mehr. Das sollte auch Berlin beherzigen.

Es gibt zwei Arten von Kriegsreportern, die lebensgefährdet sind. Solche, die neu dabei sind, und solche, die schon lange dabei sind. So ähnlich ist das auch in der europäischen Politik. Emmanuel Macron, dem jungen wirtschaftsliberalen Sieger der französischen Präsidentschaftswahl, gebührt der Respekt und Dank all derer, die zu Recht gefürchtet haben, was bei anderem Ausgang der Wahl auf dem Spiel gestanden hätte. Europa nämlich. 60 Jahre harte Arbeit an der politischen Befriedung durch Integration, am wirtschaftlichen Wachstum durch den Binnenmarkt. Macron ist frisch im Geschäft. Er muss von nun an galant auf den Kompromisslinien balancieren, die er nicht selbst gezogen hat. Und er könnte schneller abstürzen, als selbst Bösgläubige sich wünschen mögen. Angela Merkel, die erfahrene Regierungschefin, die sich mithilfe eines lebenden Sparbuchs in Gestalt ihres Finanzministers durch die Euro-Krise gerettet hat, ist lange im Amt. Mit fast zwölf Jahren zu lange, glaubt manch ein Beobachter. Im Mai 2010 sagte sie: „Scheitert der Euro, scheitert Europa.“ Sieben Jahre später wissen wir, dass Europa auch ganz anders scheitern kann als durch den Euro. Durch Kriege in anderen Teilen der Welt, die eine millionenfache Flucht gen Westen auslösen, durch Terror, durch Ermüdungsbrüche im Gerüst der EU. Auch durch hartnäckigen Nationalismus und populistische Bewegungen, die den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern versprechen, man könne die Zeit zurückdrehen und die Welt vom Fortschritt der vergangenen Jahrzehnte „befreien“.

Der Neuling und die Etablierte, sie müssen miteinander arbeiten. Nur über die deutsch-französische Achse wird eine Übersetzung gelingen, die den europäischen Wachstums- und Integrationsmotor wieder anspringen lässt. Macron will dazu zwei Dinge angehen: Reformen im eigenen Land, auch um endlich wieder die Stabilitätskriterien einhalten zu können. Aber er fordert ebenso eine fundamentale Reform für die politische Führung der Euro-Zone. Mittelfristig muss die Europäische Union (EU) in der Verteidigungs-, Sicherheits- und Migrationspolitik enger zusammenarbeiten. So weit, so gut. Wenn es aber an die Finanzierung des Ganzen geht, drehen in Berlin sofort wieder alle am Rad. Keine 24 Stunden nach der Wahl sendete die Bundeskanzlerin ihr Warnsignal Richtung Paris: keine Änderung der deutschen Politik. Der Wahlsieg Macrons hat eine echte Bewegung erzeugt. Es wird schwer genug sein, das Momentum zu halten und weiterzuentwickeln. Ihn hochleben zu lassen für den Sieg, um ihm noch im Jubelsprung öffentlich ins Knie zu schießen, ist schlicht bigott. Offenbar fehlt es in der Bundesregierung an echter Erkenntnis und Überzeugung, dass diese Chance eines europäischen Neuanfangs so schnell nicht wieder kommt. Europa ist nicht selbstverständlich. Es ist dem Teufel des Retronationalismus gerade noch mal von der Gabel gesprungen. Wer glaubt, das hieße „weiter so“, agiert blasiert. Man kann sich Europa sparen, wenn man meint, es ginge auch ohne. Ersparen kann man es sich nicht.

by Miriam Meckel at May 17, 2017 07:03 AM

May 16, 2017

Berkman Center front page
How to regulate the future of finance?

Subtitle

featuring John Schindler from the Federal Reserve, Jeff Bandman from the CFTC, and Valerie Szczepanik from the SEC

Parent Event

Event Date

May 16 2017 12:00pm to May 16 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 16 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

US market regulators offer perspectives on the benefits and risks of the financial technology revolution from distributed ledgers, p2p marketplaces and the use of AI in the financial system. Moderated by Patrick Murck -- Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society -- the panel discusses the challenge of regulating through disruption and how federal agencies can modernize their approach to keep up with innovation.

Patrick Murck is a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

John Schindler is an Economist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Jeffrey Bandman is the FinTech Advisor at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

Valerie A. Szczepanik is an Assistant Director in the Asset Management Unit of the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

Photo credit to Zach Copley

by candersen at May 16, 2017 04:00 PM

Zeynep Tufekci
My book, Twitter and Tear Gas, is out! News and Details!

Dear Friends,

My book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, is officially out today, as of May 16th! It is published by Yale University Press, and it weaves stories with conceptual work. It is both a quasi-historical account of some 21st century mass protests, but also engages theories social movements, public sphere and technology. I tried to write it with as much narrative structure as possible to make it readable to broadest audiences.  

Some news: there will be a free creative commons copy of my book. It will be available as a free PDF download in addition to being sold as a bound book. This is with the hopes that anyone who wants to read it can do so without worrying about the cost. However, this also means that I need to ask that a few people who can afford to do so to please consider purchasing a copy. This is not just so that Yale University Press can do this for more authors, but also because if it is not sold (at least a little bit!) in the initial few weeks, bookstores will not stock it and online algorithms will show it to fewer people. No sales will mean less visibility, and less incentive for publishers to allow other authors creative commons copies. 

Another request I have is that, if you do read it  (and especially if you liked it, heh!), please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. This is not an attempt to inflate its reviews but a request to help me fight back the inevitable attempts to suppress books like mine that talk about about repressive governments and censorship and other hot-button topics. (If you follow me on Twitter, you can see that I constantly do engage with negative criticisms and welcome feedback, good or bad). Given my topics, my book is likely to be targeted by a deliberate campaign to suppress its visibility because the trolls who game algorithms know that books that are negatively rated are shown to fewer people, and also that even when people know that some reviews are just shills, the initial impression means something. If you search for a book on Google, all you see is the number of stars with no context whether a good deal of those are one-star reviews that are purposefully malicious, and are not by readers of the book. This has happened to other books like this, and I’ve already started seeing a few signs targeting my book. A flood of actual reviews not only fights that off and averages out the “one star ratings” of trolls, it signals that it’s not worth the effort to try to torpedo it this way. (On a side note! What a world!)

I negotiated the creative commons copy with my (wonderful!) publisher Yale University Press because I really wanted to do what I could to share my insights as broadly as I could about social movements and the networked public sphere. If I make a penny more from this book because it sells well by some miracle, I will donate every extra penny to groups supporting refugees, and if I ever meet you in person and you purchased a copy of the book in support, please let me know and I’ll buy the coffee or beer. 😀 This isn’t at all about money for me.

Encouraging more free creative commons copies is especially important people in developing countries for whom book delivery and cost is an issue, and I was such a person until I came over to the United States. I was never able to afford or find all the books I wanted to read. This also helps undergraduate and graduate students help pay less for books that they need.  If some of you buy this book, publishers can feel more empowered to let other authors also provide free copies online. It is not as easy as “just blog your material.” I do a lot of that, but writing a book that is coherent and more readable takes a lot of effort and editing from the publisher, and they can’t just do that for free.

So if you can afford it: please consider purchasing my book. Amazon link is here, and Yale University Press link with other options for purchase is here. The book’s own website, where the creative commons copy lives, can be found here. You can also keep up with what’s next, what else I’m doing and more on my newsletter.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me and interacted with me through the years. If you do end up reading the book, please do know that I would love to hear from you. I may need to fight back trolls online, but I truly appreciate feedback and consider it a gift. My deep gratitude also  goes to everyone striving for positive social change who welcomed me into their lives over the years.

The book is, rightfully, dedicated to my wonderful grandmother whose love and devotion, as I say in the dedication, “made everything else possible.”

best,
-zeynep

Some Reviews of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Inside Higher Ed:

If you’re interested in what’s happening in the world today, this book is a fascinating read. Even if you’re not, it’s an unusually informative book about digital platforms usually examined apart from political life. Social interactions in the digital world in the context of political activity is insightfully explored through this wonderfully readable academic study.

Publishers Weekly:

This insightful and analytical account of mass protest in the 21st century focuses on the “intertwined” power and weaknesses of new technologies that can be used to galvanize large numbers of people. … This comprehensive, thought-provoking work makes a valuable contribution to understanding recent political developments and provides a clear path by which grassroots organizers can improve future efforts.

Financial Times:

The author is also insightful on how governments and politicians are moving from censorship, no easy task on social media, to attention-grabbing and misinformation. “Just as attention is under-appreciated as a resource for social movements, distractions and ignorance are under-appreciated as methods of repression through denial of attention,” she writes. Sowing cynicism is a powerful tool against protest: “If everything is in doubt, while the world is run by secret cabals that successfully manipulate everything behind the scenes, why bother?”  …  Twitter and Tear Gas is packed with evidence on how social media has changed social movements, based on rigorous research and placed in historical context.

by zeynep at May 16, 2017 01:32 PM

May 15, 2017

David Weinberger
[liveblog][AI] AI and education lightning talks

Sara Watson, a BKC affiliate and a technology critic, is moderating a discussion at the Berkman Klein/Media Lab AI Advance.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Karthik Dinakar at the Media Lab points out what we see in the night sky is in fact distorted by the way gravity bends light, which Einstein called a “gravity lens.” Same for AI: The distortion is often in the data itself. Karthik works on how to help researchers recognize that distortion. He gives an example of how to capture both cardiologist and patient lenses to better to diagnose women’s heart disease.

Chris Bavitz is the head of BKC’s Cyberlaw Clinic. To help Law students understand AI and tech, the Clinic encourages interdisciplinarity. They also help students think critically about the roles of the lawyer and the technologist. The clinic prefers early relationships among them, although thinking too hard about law early on can diminish innovation.

He points to two problems that represent two poles. First, IP and AI: running AI against protected data. Second, issues of fairness, rights, etc.

Leah Plunkett, is a professor at Univ. New Hampshire Law School and is a BKC affiliate. Her topic: How can we use AI to teach? She points out that if Tom Sawyer were real and alive today, he’d be arrested for what he does just in the first chapter. Yet we teach the book as a classic. We think we love a little mischief in our lives, but we apparently don’t like it in our kids. We kick them out of schools. E.g., of 49M students in public schools in 20-11, 3.45M were suspended, and 130,000 students were expelled. These disproportionately affect children from marginalized segments.

Get rid of the BS safety justification and the govt ought to be teaching all our children without exception. So, maybe have AI teach them?

Sarah: So, what can we do?

Chris: We’re thinking about how we can educate state attorneys general, for example.

Karthik: We are so far from getting users, experts, and machine learning folks together.

Leah: Some of it comes down to buy-in and translation across vocabularies and normative frameworks. It helps to build trust to make these translations better.

[I missed the QA from this point on.]

The post [liveblog][AI] AI and education lightning talks appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 15, 2017 06:26 PM

[liveblog][AI] Perspectives on community and AI

Chelsea Barabas is moderating a set of lightning talks at the AI Advance, aat Berkman Klein and MIT Media Lab.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Lionel Brossi recounts growing up in Argentina and the assumption that all boys care about football. He moved to Chile which is split between people who do and do not watch football. “Humans are inherently biased.” So, our AI systems are likely to be biased. Cognitive science has shown that the participants in their studies tend to be WEIRD: western, educated, industrialized, rich and developed. Also straight and white. He references Kate Crawford‘s “AI’s White Guy Problem.” We need not only diverse teams of developers, but also to think about how data can be more representative. We also need to think about the users. One approach is work on goal centered design.

If we ever get to unbiased AI, Borges‘ statement, “The original is unfaithful to the translation” may apply.

Chelsea: What is an inclusive way to think of cross-border countries?

Lionel: We need to co-design with more people.

Madeline Elish is at Data and Society and an anthropology of technology grad student at Columbia. She’s met designers who thought it might be a good to make a phone run faster if you yell at it. But this would train children to yell at things. What’s the context in which such designers work? She and Tim Hwang set about to build bridges between academics and businesses. They asked what designers see as their responsibility for the social implications of their work. They found four core challenges:

1. Assuring users perceive good intentions
2. Protecting privacy
3. Long term adoption
4. Accuracy and reliability

She and Tim wrote An AI Pattern Language [pdf] about the frameworks that guide design. She notes that none of them were thinking about social justice. The book argues that there’s a way to translate between the social justice framework and, for example, the accuracy framework.

Ethan Zuckerman: How much of the language you’re seeing feels familiar from other hype cycles?

Madeline: Tim and I looked at the history of autopilot litigation to see what might happen with autonomous cars. We should be looking at Big Data as the prior hype cycle.

Yarden Katz is at the BKC and at the Dept. of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. He talks about the history of AI, starting with 1958 claim about translation machine. 1966: Minsky Then there was an AI funding winter, but now it’s big again. “Until recently, AI was a dirty word.”

Today we use it schizophrenically: for Deep Learning or in a totally diluted sense as something done by a computer. “AI” now seems to be a branding strategy used by Silicon Valley.

“AI’s history is diverse, messy, and philosophical.” If complexit is embraced, “AI” might not be a useful caregory for policy. So we should go basvk to the politics of technology:

1. who controls the code/frameworks/data
2. Is the system inspectable/open?
3. Who sets the metrics? Who benefits from them?

The media are not going to be the watchdogs because they’re caught up in the hype. So who will be?

Q: There’s a qualitative difference in the sort of tasks now being turned over to computers. We’re entrusting machines with tasks we used to only trust to humans with good judgment.

Yarden: We already do that with systems that are not labeled AI, like “risk assessment” programs used by insurance companies.

Madeline: Before AI got popular again, there were expert systems. We are reconfiguring our understanding, moving it from a cognition frame to a behavioral one.

Chelsea: I’ve been involved in co-design projects that have backfired. These projects have sometimes been somewhat extractive: going in, getting lots of data, etc. How do we do co-design that are not extractive but that also aren’t prohibitively expensive?

Nathan: To what degree does AI change the dimensions of questions about explanation, inspectability, etc.

Yarden: The promoters of the Deep Learning narrative want us to believe you just need to feed in lots and lots of data. DL is less inspectable than other methods. DL is not learning from nothing. There are open questions about their inductive power.


Amy Zhang and Ryan Budish give a pre-alpha demo of the AI Compass being built at BKC. It’s designed to help people find resources exploring topics related to the ethics and governance of AI.

The post [liveblog][AI] Perspectives on community and AI appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 15, 2017 05:41 PM

[liveblog] AI Advance opening: Jonathan Zittrain and lightning talks

I’m at a day-long conference/meet-up put on by the Berkman Klein Center‘s and MIT Media Lab‘s “AI for the Common Good” project.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Jonathan Zittrain gives an opening talk. Since we’re meeting at Harvard Law, JZ begins by recalling the origins of what has been called “cyber law,” which has roots here. Back then, the lawyers got to the topic first, and thought that they could just think their way to policy. We are now at another signal moment as we are in a frenzy of building new tech. This time we want instead to involve more groups and think this through. [I am wildly paraphrasing.]

JZ asks: What is it that we intuitively love about human judgment, and are we willing to insist on human judgments that are worse than what a machine would come up with? Suppose for utilitarian reasons we can cede autonomy to our machines — e.g., autonomous cars — shouldn’t we? And what do we do about maintaining local norms? E.g., “You are now entering Texas where your autonomous car will not brake for pedestrians.”

“Should I insist on being misjudged by a human judge because that’s somehow artesinal?” when, ex hypothesis, an AI system might be fairer.

Autonomous systems are not entirely new. They’re bringing to the fore questions that have always been with us. E.g., we grant a sense of discrete intelligence to corporations. E.g., “McDonald’s is upset and may want to sue someone.”

[This is a particularly bad representation of JZ’s talk. Not only is it wildly incomplete, but it misses the through-line and JZ’s wit. Sorry.]

Lightning Talks

Finale Doshi-Velez is particularly interested in interpretable machine learning (ML) models. E.g., suppose you have ten different classifiers that give equally predictive results. Should you provide the most understandable, all of them…?

Why is interpretability so “in vogue”? Suppose non-interpretable AI can do something better? In most cases we don’t know what “better” means. E.g., someone might want to control her glucose level, but perhaps also to control her weight, or other outcomes? Human physicians can still see things that are not coded into the model, and that will be the case for a long time. Also, we want systems that are fair. This means we want interpretable AI systems.

How do we formalize these notions of interpretability? How do we do so for science and beyond? E.g., what is a legal “right to explanation
” mean? She is working with Sam Greshman on how to more formally ground AI interpretability in the cognitive science of explanation.

Vikash Mansinghka leads the eight-person Probabilistic Computing project at MIT. They want to build computing systems that can be our partners, not our replacements. We have assumed that the measure of success of AI is that it beats us at our own game, e.g., AlphaGo, Deep Blue, Watson playing Jeopardy! But games have clearly measurable winners.

His lab is working on augmented intelligence that gives partial solutions, guidelines and hints that help us solve problems that neither system could solve on their own. The need for these systems are most obvious in large-scale human interest projects, e.g., epidemiology, economics, etc. E.g., should a successful nutrition program in SE Asia be tested in Africa too? There are many variables (including cost). BayesDB, developed by his lab, is “augmented intelligence for public interest data science.”

Traditional computer science, computing systems are built up from circuits to algorithms. Engineers can trade off performance for interpretability. Probabilisitic systems have some of the same considerations. [Sorry, I didn’t get that last point. My fault!]

John Palfrey is a former Exec. Dir. of BKC, chair of the Knight Foundation (a funder of this project) and many other things. Where can we, BKC and the Media Lab, be most effective as a research organization? First, we’ve had the most success when we merge theory and practice. And building things. And communicating. Second, we have not yet defined the research question sufficiently. “We’re close to something that clearly relates to AI, ethics and government” but we don’t yet have the well-defined research questions.

The Knight Foundation thinks this area is a big deal. AI could be a tool for the public good, but it also might not be. “We’re queasy” about it, as well as excited.

Nadya Peek is at the Media Lab and has been researching “macines that make machines.” She points to the first computer-controlled machine (“Teaching Power Tools to Run Themselves“) where the aim was precision. People controlled these CCMs: programmers, CAD/CAM folks, etc. That’s still the case but it looks different. Now the old jobs are being done by far fewer people. But the spaces between doesn’t always work so well. E.g., Apple can define an automatiable workflow for milling components, but if you’re student doing a one-off project, it can be very difficult to get all the integrations right. The student doesn’t much care about a repeatable workflow.

Who has access to an Apple-like infrastructure? How can we make precision-based one-offs easier to create? (She teaches a course at MIT called “How to create a machine that can create almost anything.”)

Nathan Mathias, MIT grad student with a newly-minted Ph.D. (congrats, Nathan!), and BKC community member, is facilitating the discussion. He asks how we conceptualize the range of questions that these talks have raised. And, what are the tools we need to create? What are the social processes behind that? How can we communicate what we want to machines and understand what they “think” they’re doing? Who can do what, where that raises questions about literacy, policy, and legal issues? Finally, how can we get to the questions we need to ask, how to answer them, and how to organize people, institutions, and automated systems? Scholarly inquiry, organizing people socially and politically, creating policies, etc.? How do we get there? How can we build AI systems that are “generative” in JZ’s sense: systems that we can all contribute to on relatively equal terms and share them with others.

Nathan: Vikash, what do you do when people disagree?

Vikash: When you include the sources, you can provide probabilistic responses.

Finale: When a system can’t provide a single answer, it ought to provide multiple answers. We need humans to give systems clear values. AI things are not moral, ethical things. That’s us.

Vikash: We’ve made great strides in systems that can deal with what may or may not be true, but not in terms of preference.

Nathan: An audience member wants to know what we have to do to prevent AI from repeating human bias.

Nadya: We need to include the people affected in the conversations about these systems. There are assumptions about the independence of values that just aren’t true.

Nathan: How can people not close to these systems be heard?

JP: Ethan Zuckerman, can you respond?

Ethan: One of my colleagues, Joy Buolamwini, is working on what she calls the Algorithmic Justice League, looking at computer vision algorithms that don’t work on people of color. In part this is because the tests use to train cv systems are 70% white male faces. So she’s generating new sets of facial data that we can retest on. Overall, it’d be good to use test data that represents the real world, and to make sure a representation of humanity is working on these systems. So here’s my question: We find co-design works well: bringing in the affected populations to talk with the system designers?

[Damn, I missed Yochai Benkler‘s comment.]

Finale: We should also enable people to interrogate AI when the results seem questionable or unfair. We need to be thinking about the proccesses for resolving such questions.

Nadya: It’s never “people” in general who are affected. It’s always particular people with agendas, from places and institutions, etc.

The post [liveblog] AI Advance opening: Jonathan Zittrain and lightning talks appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 15, 2017 03:22 PM

ProjectVRM
CustomerTech

doc-017-018_combined_med

We now have a better name for VRM than VRM: customertech.

Hashtag, #customertech.

We wouldn’t have it without adtech (3+million results), martech (1.85m) , fintech (22+m) and regtech (.6m), all of which became hot stuff in the years since we started ProjectVRM in 2006. Thanks to their popularity, customertech makes full sense of what VRM has always been about.

The term came to us from Iain Henderson, a fellow board member of Customer Commons, in response to my request for help prepping for a talk I was about to give at the Martech conference in San Francisco last Thursday. Among other hunks of good advice, Iain wrote “martech needs customertech.”

That nailed it.

So I vetted customertech in my talk, and it took. The audience in the huge ballroom was attentive and responsive.

The talk wasn’t recorded, but @xBarryLevine in Martech Today wrote up a very nice report on it, titled MarTech Conference: Doc Searls previews ‘customer tech’:The marketing writer/researcher has helped set up a ‘Customer Commons’ to provide some of the automated ‘contracts’ between customers and brands.

One problem we’ve had with VRM as a label is an aversion by VRM developers to using it, even as they participate in VRM gatherings and participate in our mailing list (of about 600 members). It doesn’t matter why.

It does matter that martech likes customertech, and understands it instantly. In conversations afterwards, martech folk spoke about it knowingly, without ever having encountered it before. It was like, “Of course, customertech. Tech the customer has.”

I highly recommend to VRM developers that they take to it as well. I can’t think of anything that will help the cause more.

The word alone should also suggest a symbol or an illustration better than VRM ever did.

This doesn’t mean, by the way, that we are retiring VRM, since Vendor Relationship Management earned its Wikipedia entry (at that link), and is one of the most important things customertech can do.

Meanwhile, a hat tip to Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid, for the image above. He drew it for a project we both worked on, way back in ’04.

by Doc Searls at May 15, 2017 03:08 PM

May 14, 2017

Panagiotis Metaxas
Artificial Intelligence, your brain, and other things you cannot trust about politics

A few days ago the Center for Research on Computation and Society organized a workshop with the provocative title “Six Reasons Fake News is the End of the World as we Know It“. I call it provocative because, whether “fake news” is a new thing or not, has been discussed a lot lately. Not all of us agree on what it is, or how novel it is. Some point out that it is as old as newspapers, others see it as something that mainly appeared last year. Yet others doubt that it is even a phenomenon worth discussing and that, instead of fake news, we should talk instead about specific categories such as false news, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.

Accepting the challenge, I gave a talk with an equally provocative, I would like to believe, title:  “Artificial Intelligence, your brain, and other things you cannot trust about politics“. You can follow my talk in the video below, but let me give you a list of the “things” that I discussed in the talk:

what-you-cannot-trusst-about-politics

I hope you find it interesting and do your own thinking about what we can trust when it comes to politics. Importantly, we need to figure out how to solve the problems of online misinformation and propaganda that seem to be all around us these days.

Or, to learn how to live with them, which is what I think will happen.

by metaxas at May 14, 2017 01:24 AM

May 12, 2017

MediaBerkman
Zeynep Tufekci on Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest
Berkman Klein Faculty Associate, Zeynep Tufekci joins us to talk about her new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti–Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the power and the weaknesses of using new technologies to mobilize large numbers of people. An incisive observer, writer, and participant in today’s social movements, Zeynep Tufekci explains in this accessible and compelling book the nuanced trajectories of modern protests—how they form, how they operate differently from past protests, and why they have difficulty persisting in their long-term quests for change. Tufekci speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis. She describes how the internet helped the Zapatista uprisings in Mexico, the necessity of remote Twitter users to organize medical supplies during Arab Spring, the refusal to use bullhorns in the Occupy Movement that started in New York, and the empowering effect of tear gas in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. These details from life inside social movements complete a moving investigation of authority, technology, and culture—and offer essential insights into the future of governance. About Zeynep Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill at the School of Information and Library Science with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Sociology. She is also currently also a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She was previously an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research revolves around the interaction between technology and social, cultural and political dynamics. She is particularly interested in collective action and social movements, complex systems, surveillance, privacy, and sociality. For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/05/Tufekci

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 12, 2017 05:27 PM

May 11, 2017

MediaBerkman
Ifeoma Ajunwa on The Quantified Worker
What are the rights of the worker in a society that seems to privilege technological innovation over equality and privacy? How does the law protect worker privacy and dignity given technological advancements that allow for greater surveillance of workers? What can we expect for the future of work; should privacy be treated as merely an economic good that could be exchanged for the benefit of employment? In this talk Berkman Klein fellow Ifeoma Ajunwa looks at how the law and private firms respond to job applicants or employees perceived as “risky,” and the organizational behavior in pursuit of risk reduction by private firms, as well as ethical issues arising from how firms off-set risk to employees. For more info on this event, visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/05/Ajunwa

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 11, 2017 05:40 PM

David Weinberger
[liveblog] St. Goodall

I’m in Rome at the National Geographic Science Festival
, co-produced by Codice Edizioni which, not entirely coincidentally published, the Italian version of my book Took Big to Know. Jane Goodall is giving the opening talk to a large audience full of students. I won’t try to capture what she is saying because she is talking without notes, telling her personal story.

She embodies an inquiring mind capable of radically re-framing our ideas simply by looking at the phenomena. We may want to dispute her anthropomorphizing of chimps but it is a truth that needed to be uncovered. For example, she says that when she got to Oxford to get a graduate degree — even though she had never been to college — she was told that she should’t have given the chimps names. But this, she says, was because at the time science believed humans were unique. Since then genetics has shown how close we are to them, but even before that her field work had shown the psychological and behavioral similarities. So, her re-framing was fecund and, yes, true.

At a conference in America in 1986, every report from Africa was about the decimation of the chimpanzee population and the abuse of chimpanzees in laboratories. “I went to this conference as a scientist, ready to continue my wonderful life, and I left as an activist.” Her Tacare Institute
works with and for Africans. For example, local people are equipped with tablets and phones and mark chimp nests, downed trees, and the occasional leopard. (Takari provides scholarships to keep girls in school, “and some boys too.”)

She makes a totally Dad joke about “the cloud.”

It is a dangerous world, she says. “Our intellects have developed tremendously.” “Isn’t it strange that this most intellectual creature ever is destroying its home.” She calls out the damage done to our climate by our farming of animals. “There are a lot of reasons to avoid eating a lot of meat or any, but that’s one of them.”

There is a disconnect between our beautiful brains and our hearts, she says. Violence, domestic violence, greed…”we don’t think ‘Are we having a happy life?'” She started “Roots and Shoots
” in 1991 in Tanzania, and now it’s in 99 countries, from kindergartens through universities. It’s a program for young people. “We do not tell the young people what to do.” They decide what matters to them.

Her reasons for hope: 1. The reaction to Roots and Shoots. 2. Our amazing brains. 3. The resilience of nature. 4. Social media, which, if used right can be a “tremendous tool for change.” 6. “The indomitable human spirit.” She uses Nelson Mandela as an example, but also refugees making lives in new lands.

“It’s not only humans that have an indomitable spirit.” She shows a brief video of the release of a chimp that left at least some wizened adults in tears:

She stresses making the right ethical choices, a phrase not heard often enough.

If in this audience of 500 students she has not made five new scientists, I’ll be surprised.

The post [liveblog] St. Goodall appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 11, 2017 10:24 AM

May 10, 2017

Miriam Meckel
Reaktion und Gegenreaktion

Es gelingt keinem politischen Kopf, Fortschritt als Chance zu erklären. Der gesellschaftliche Geist, er ist auf Grund gelaufen.

Es ist eine Selbstverständlichkeit, die das dritte Newton’sche Gesetz heute atmet. Aktion und Reaktion stehen in Wechselwirkung. Jede Aktion erzeugt eine gleich große Reaktion, die auf den Verursacher zurückwirkt. Das ist Physik. Erst einmal. Und es ist auch Politik oder vielmehr: Gesellschaftskunde. Die Banalität dieses Gesetzes wird nämlich ganz schnell böse, wenn man sie aus der Mechanik der Körperphysik ins Licht der Zeitläufte zerrt.

Da stehen sich dann ganz andere Kräfte gegenüber, die der liberalen Ordnung und der Verteidigung von Vergangenem. Sie kämpfen sehr hör- und sichtbar gegeneinander, vor allem an den Fronten der Globalisierung. Die britische Entscheidung zum Austritt aus der EU, die längst in der Illusionswelt des Gestrigen stecken geblieben ist, die Wahl Donald Trumps zum US-Präsidenten aufgrund wirtschaftspolitischer Versprechen aus den Anfängen des Industriezeitalters und der Aufstieg rechter Parteien in vielen europäischen Ländern zeugen davon, dass gerüstet wird für die politische Wechselwirkung. Der Gegenschlag gegen den vermeintlich aktionistisch vorangetriebenen Liberalismus steht bevor. So wünschen es sich die Kadetten der politischen Nostalgie.

Vielleicht werden sie in diesem Jahrzehnt einen interimistischen Sieg davontragen. Das kann geschehen, wusste schon Joseph de Maistre, Angehöriger des katholischen Adels, der angesichts der Französischen Revolution Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts zum ersten Mal das reaktionäre Denken als Gegenstrategie zum Terror der Revolution beschrieb. Er war Vertreter der Gegenaufklärung. Die setzt, ganz im Newton’schen Sinne ein, wenn Nostalgie von der Hilfe zum Hindernis wird.

Psychologische Forschung zeigt, dass Nostalgie den Wandel erst erträglich macht. Aus der Erinnerung an das, was einst gut und schön war, entsteht Vergewisserung: Es kann wieder so werden. Aber Politik ist eben nicht Physik. Und so kann die Gegenreaktion auch ganz unproportional ausfallen. Dann wird Nostalgie zur Ideologie im Kampf ums Gestern.

Zurzeit gelingt es keinem führenden politischen Kopf, die Geschichte des Fortschritts über die Chancen zu erzählen, die mit ihm verbunden sind. Der Geist der Modernisierung ist irgendwie auf Grund gelaufen. Einst schrieb der kolumbianische Philosoph Nicolás Gómez Dávila: „Der Reaktionär ist die Reaktion auf den Aktionär.“ Den Satz eines weiteren radikalen Vertreters der Gegenaufklärung versteht man heute kaum mehr, weil „Aktionär“ in der deutschen Sprache nur mehr für Anteilseigner steht.

Warum eigentlich überlassen es die Aktionäre allein der Politik, überzeugend vom Fortschritt zu erzählen? Als Anteilseigner an den Unternehmen sind sie die wichtigsten Protagonisten der Modernisierung. Ihre Treuepflicht gilt nicht nur dem Unternehmen, an dem sie beteiligt sind. Sie gilt auch dem größeren Ganzen. Noch nie ist die Wirtschaft am Reaktionär gewachsen.

by Miriam Meckel at May 10, 2017 01:42 PM

May 09, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Twitter and Tear Gas with Zeynep Tufekci

Subtitle

The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Teaser

Join us for this firsthand account and incisive analysis of modern protest, revealing internet-fueled social movements’ greatest strengths and frequent challenges.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 9 2017 12:00pm to May 9 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Berkman Klein Faculty Associate, Zeynep Tufekci joins us to talk about her new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.

To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti–Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the power and the weaknesses of using new technologies to mobilize large numbers of people. An incisive observer, writer, and participant in today’s social movements, Zeynep Tufekci explains in this accessible and compelling book the nuanced trajectories of modern protests—how they form, how they operate differently from past protests, and why they have difficulty persisting in their long-term quests for change.

Tufekci speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis. She describes how the internet helped the Zapatista uprisings in Mexico, the necessity of remote Twitter users to organize medical supplies during Arab Spring, the refusal to use bullhorns in the Occupy Movement that started in New York, and the empowering effect of tear gas in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. These details from life inside social movements complete a moving investigation of authority, technology, and culture—and offer essential insights into the future of governance.

About Zeynep

Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill at the School of Information and Library Science with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Sociology. She is also currently also a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She was previously an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research revolves around the interaction between technology and social, cultural and political dynamics. She is particularly interested in collective action and social movements, complex systems, surveillance, privacy, and sociality.

Links

Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

by candersen at May 09, 2017 04:00 PM

May 07, 2017

David Weinberger
Predicting the tides based on purposefully false models

Newton showed that the tides are produced by the gravitational pull of the moon and the Sun. But, as a 1914 article in Scientific American pointed out, if you want any degree of accuracy, you have to deal with the fact that “the earth is not a perfect sphere, it isn’t covered with water to a uniform­ form depth, it has many continents and islands and sea passages of peculiar shapes and depths, the earth does not travel about the sun in a circular path, and earth, sun and moon are not always in line. The result is that two tides are rarely the same for the same place twice running, and that tides dif­fer from each other enormously in both times and in amplitude.”

So, we instead built a machine of brass, steel and mahogany. And instead of trying to understand each of the variables, Lord Kelvin postulated “a very respectable number” of fictitious suns and moons in various positions over the earth, moving in unrealistically perfect circular orbits, to account for the known risings and fallings of the tide, averaging readings to remove unpredictable variations caused by weather and “freshets.” Knowing the outcomes, he would nudge a sun or moon’s position, or add a new sun or moon, in order to get the results to conform to what we know to be the actual tidal measurements. If adding sea serpents would have helped, presumably Lord Kelvin would have included them as well.

The first mechanical tide-predicting machines using these heuristics were made in England. In 1881, one was created in the United States that was used by the Coast and Geodetic Survey for twenty-seven years.

Then, in 1914, it was replaced by a 15,000-piece machine that took “account of thirty-seven factors or components of a tide” (I wish I knew what that means) and predicted the tide at any hour. It also printed out the information rather than requiring a human to transcribe it from dials. “Unlike the human brain, this one cannot make a mistake.”

This new model was more accurate, with greater temporal resolution. But it got that way by giving up on predicting the actual tide, which might vary because of the weather. We simply accept the unpredictability of what we shall for the moment call “reality.” That’s how we manage in a world governed by uniform laws operating on unpredictably complex systems.

It is also a model that uses the known major causes of average tides — the gravitational effects of the sun and moon — but that feels fine about fictionalizing the model until it provides realistic results. This makes the model incapable of being interrogated about the actual causes of the tide, although we can tinker with it to correct inaccuracies. In this there is a very rough analogy — and some disanalogies — with some instances of machine learning.

The post Predicting the tides based on purposefully false models appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at May 07, 2017 03:28 PM

May 06, 2017

Miriam Meckel
Business Feminismus?

Gruppenselfie mit (von links unten im Uhrzeigersinn) Kanadas Außenministerin Crystia Freeland, Familienministerin Manuela Schwesig, IWF-Chefin Christine Lagarde, Königin Maxima der Niederlande, Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller (Trumpf), Ivanka Trump, Anne Finucane (Bank of America), MM

Wer Feminismus über wirtschaftlichen Erfolg definiert, nimmt angeblich die Gleichberechtigung nicht so ernst. So ein Quatsch.

Das war ein Moment für die Ewigkeit. Der Augenblick, als Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel auf der Bühne eines Berliner Hotels vor Hunderten Gästen des W20-Gipfels ins Stocken geriet. Auslöser war die Frage, ob sie sich selbst als Feministin bezeichnen würde. Es hat dann ein paar Wortrunden gedauert, bis eine Annäherung stattfand zwischen der Bundeskanzlerin und dem Begriff. Es war der Beginn einer Freundschaft, gespickt mit Resten an Misstrauen. Zumindest wollte die Kanzlerin die Frage mit nach Hause nehmen „ob ich Feministin bin oder nicht“.

Diese Frage muss jede Frau und jeder Mann für sich beantworten. Wer für Gleichberechtigung und Selbstbestimmung der Frau eintritt und diese Überzeugung nicht vor der Umwelt verheimlicht, darf sich so nennen. Dass manch eine(r) davor zurückschreckt, hat wenig mit dem Wort, aber viel mit den Schubladen zu tun, in denen Gedachtes manchmal gerne abgelegt wird. Kleinliche Auslegeordnungen aber haben noch nie weit geführt.

Es war richtig, dass sich die Runde mit Kanzlerin, IWF-Chefin Christine Lagarde, Ivanka Trump und anderen auf Frauen und Unternehmertum konzentriert hat. Die Zahlen sprechen eine klare Sprache. Nur jedes zehnte Start-up in Deutschland wird von einer Frau gegründet. Weltweit sind 70 Prozent der von Frauen gegründeten Unternehmen unterfinanziert, weil die Gründerinnen keinen Zugang zu Krediten und anderen Finanzierungsmöglichkeiten haben. Und wären Frauen endlich im gleichen Umfang wie Männer erwerbstätig, unser weltweites Bruttosozialprodukt könnte bis 2025 um 28 Billionen Dollar wachsen. Wenn aus der W20- Runde nun also ein Fonds zur Förderung von Unternehmerinnen in Entwicklungsländern hervorgehen soll, dann ist das zumindest schon mal ein konkreter Ansatz.

Es ist aber aus der Runde mit der Kanzlerin flugs ein neuer Begriff entstanden, mit dem wir jetzt offenbar zwischen dem guten, richtigen und dem falschen, bösen Feminismus unterscheiden lernen sollen. Business-Feminismus heißt das neue Schmähwort, und es trifft alle, die Frauen auch zum Wachstumsmotor der Wirtschaft machen wollen. Da könnte ich dann doch ein bisschen sauer werden: Wie sonst, bitte, soll es gelingen, Frauen die gleichen Chancen und Möglichkeiten zu bieten, als dadurch, ihnen Rahmenbedingungen für Unternehmertum zu schaffen. Und zwar alles, was dazugehört: Bildung, Kinderbetreuung, Kapital und so weiter. Das bringt Wachstum, volkswirtschaftlich und ganz individuell.

Am eigenen unternehmerischen Tun wächst ein Mensch ungemein. Um das zu erkennen, muss man keine Feministin sein. Das schafft man als Realistin. Als solche erkennt man auch leicht, dass Begriffe, wie Menschen, mit der Zeit gehen. Der Feminismus hat mal mit „mein Bauch gehört mir“ angefangen. Wir dürfen den Bedeutungsraum getrost ergänzen. „Mein Unternehmen gehört mir“ zählt heute zum Repertoire derer, die sich Feministinnen nennen.

 

by Miriam Meckel at May 06, 2017 04:52 PM

May 04, 2017

Justin Reich
To Measure Change, We Need to Move Beyond Quantitative Research
To measure change in education, we need to move beyond only using quantitative research methods.

by Beth Holland at May 04, 2017 08:05 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Postdoc Yang Liu Publishes in the 18th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC-17)
May 4, 2017

CRCS Postdoc Yang Liu Publishes in the 18th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC-17)

Yang Liu and Yiling Chen. Machine Learning Aided Peer Prediction. ACM EC 2017, Cambridge, United States.

by Gabriella Fee at May 04, 2017 06:26 PM

May 03, 2017

MediaBerkman
Digital Rights and Online Harassment in the Global South
Nighat Dad discusses the state of freedom of expression, privacy, and online harassment in the global south, with a particular focus on Pakistan, where she is based. Dad is the Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a nonprofit that seeks to protect the freedom and security of all people online, with a particular focus on women and human rights defenders. In late 2016, DRF launched a cyber harassment hotline, and Dad will present key findings from a recently released report [LINK: http://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/cyber-harassment-helpline-completes-its-four-months-of-operations/] on the first four months of its operation. The report affords up-to-the-moment insights on significant challenges facing internet users in Pakistan and throughout the region. About Nighat Nighat Dad is the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. She is an accomplished lawyer and a human rights activist. Nighat is one of the pioneers who have been campaigning around access to open internet in Pakistan and globally. She has been actively campaigning and engaging at a policy level on issues focusing on Internet Freedom, Women and Technology, Digital Security, and Women’s empowerment. Nighat has been named in TIME's Next Generation Leaders List, and has won Atlantic Council Freedom of Expression Award, and also Human Rights Tulip Award for her work in digital rights and freedom. She is also an Affiliate at Berkman Klien Centre for the year 2016-2017 For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/05/Dad

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 03, 2017 05:18 PM

Internet Access as a Basic Service: Inspiration from our Canadian Neighbors
Deemed the modern equivalent of building roads or railways, connecting every person and business to high-speed internet is on the minds of policymakers, advocates, and industry players. Under the leadership of Mr. Jean-Pierre Blais, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) ruled in December 2016 that broadband internet access is a basic and vital service, thus ensuring that broadband internet joins the ranks of local phone service. The CRTC’s announced reforms will impact over 2 million Canadian households, especially those in remote and isolated areas. The policy aims to ensure that internet download speeds of 50mbps and upload speeds of 10mbps are available to 90% of Canadian homes and business by 2021. Join the Berkman Klein Center and the HLS Canadian Law Student Association as Mr. Blais speaks about broadband, internet, and the future of connectivity in Canada and around the world. About Jean-Pierre Blais Before joining the CRTC, Mr. Blais was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Government Operations Sector. In this capacity, he provided advice on the management oversight and corporate governance of various federal departments, agencies and crown corporations. From 2004 to 2011, he was Assistant Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs at the Department of Canadian Heritage. While there, he created the Task Force on New Technologies to study the impact of the Internet and digital technologies on Canada’s cultural policies. In addition, he served as Director of the Canadian Television Fund. His responsibilities also included cultural trade policy and international policies and treaties, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. As the Director of Investment from 2004 to 2011, he reviewed transactions in the cultural sector under the Investment Canada Act and provided advice to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Mr. Blais also served as Assistant Deputy Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Canadian Heritage. He played a pivotal role in the rapid adoption of the UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention and in garnering international support for the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Anti-Doping Code. Moreover, he represented the Government of Canada on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games Bid Corporation. As the CRTC’s Executive Director of Broadcasting from 1999 to 2002, he notably oversaw the development of a licensing framework for new digital pay and specialty services and led reviews of major ownership transactions. He previously was a member of the Legal Directorate, serving as General Counsel, Broadcasting and Senior Counsel. From 1985 to 1991, Mr. Blais was an attorney with the Montreal-based firm Martineau Walker. Mr. Blais holds a Master of Laws from the University of Melbourne in Australia, as well as a Bachelor of Civil Law and a Bachelor of Common Law from McGill University. He is a member of the Barreau du Québec and the Law Society of Upper Canada. His term ends on June 17, 2017. For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/luncheons/2017/04/Blais

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 03, 2017 01:01 PM

Digital Expungement: Rehabilitation in the Digital Age
The concept of criminal rehabilitation in the digital age is intriguing. How can we ensure proper reintegration into society of individuals with a criminal history that was expunged by the state when their wrongdoings remain widely available through commercial vendors (data brokers) and online sources like mugshot websites, legal research websites, social media platforms, and media archives? What are constitutional and pragmatic challenges to ensure digital rehabilitation? Is there a viable solution to solve this conundrum? About Eldar Eldar Haber is an Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) at the Faculty of Law, Haifa University and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D. from Tel-Aviv University and completed his postdoctoral studies as a fellow at the Berkman-Klein Center. His main research interests consist of various facets of law and technology including cyber law, intellectual property law (focusing mainly on copyright), privacy, civil rights and liberties, and criminal law. His works were published in various flagship law reviews worldwide, including top-specialized law and technology journals of U.S. universities such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford. His works were presented in various workshops and conferences around the globe, and were cited in academic papers, governmental reports, the media, and U.S. Federal courts. For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/luncheons/2017/04/Haber

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 03, 2017 12:50 PM

May 02, 2017

Berkman Center front page
The Quantified Worker

Subtitle

with Berkman Klein Fellow, Ifeoma Ajunwa

Teaser

To apply to Futurecorp, please submit your resume, list of references, and a genetic profile. Once hired, we'll make an appointment for you to receive a sub-dermal tracking microchip.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 2 2017 12:00pm to May 2 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

What are the rights of the worker in a society that seems to privilege technological innovation over equality and privacy? How does the law protect worker privacy and dignity given technological advancements that allow for greater surveillance of workers?  What can we expect for the future of work; should privacy be treated as merely an economic good that could be exchanged for the benefit of employment?

About Ifeoma

I am currently a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard for the 2016-2017 year. I will be an Assistant Professor at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School (ILR), (with affiliations in Sociology and Law) starting July, 2017.

I hold a Ph.D. from the Sociology Department of Columbia University in the City of New York (emphasis on Organizational Theory and Law and Society). My doctoral research on reentry was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

I am interested in how the law and private firms respond to job applicants or employees perceived as “risky.” I look at the legal parameters for the assessment of such risk and also the organizational behavior in pursuit of risk reduction by private firms. I examine the sociological processes in regards to how such risk is constructed and the discursive ways such risk assessment is deployed in the maintenance of inequality. I also examine ethical issues arising from how firms off-set risk to employees.

My dissertation was an ethnography of a reentry organization that catered to the  formerly incarcerated. In the sum of my published research, I’ve focused on three populations: 1) the formerly incarcerated, 2) carriers of genetic disease, and, 3) workers with perceived unhealthy lifestyles (obesity, smoking, etc.). Thus, my research is at the intersection of organizational theory, management/business law, privacy, health law, and antidiscrimination law.

My most recent article, Limitless Worker Surveillance, with Kate Crawford and Jason Schultz is forthcoming from the California Law Review. The Article has been downloaded more than 2,000 times on SSRN and was endorsed by the NYTimes Editorial Board. In addition to the California Law Review, my articles have been published in the Harvard Business Review, the Fordham Law Review, the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the Ohio State Law Review, and in the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, among others.

I have  a book contract with Cambridge University Press for a book (“The Quantified Worker,” forthcoming 2018) that will examine the role of technology in the workplace and its effects on management practices as moderated by employment and privacy laws.

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by candersen at May 02, 2017 04:00 PM

Panagiotis Metaxas
The Real “Fake News”

The following is a blog post that Eni Mustafaraj has recently published in The Spoke. We reproduce it here with permission.

fake_news_post

Fake news has always been with us, starting with The Great Moon Hoax in 1835. What is different now is the existence of a mass medium, the Web, that allows anyone to financially benefit from it.

Etymologists typically track the change of a word’s meaning over decades, sometimes even over centuries. Currently, however, they find themselves observing a new president and his administration redefine words and phrases on a daily basis. Case in point: “fake news.” One would have to look hard to find an American who hasn’t heard this phrase in recent months. The president loves to apply it as a label to news organizations that he doesn’t agree with.

But right before its most recent incarnation, the phrase “fake news” had a different meaning. It referred to factually incorrect stories appearing on websites with names such as DenverGuardian.com or TrumpVision365.com that mushroomed in the weeks leading up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. One such story—”FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide”—was shared more than a half million times on Facebook, despite being entirely false. The website that published it, DenverGuardian.com, was operated by a man named Jestin Coler, who, when tracked down by persistent NPR reporters after the election, admitted to being a liberal who “enjoyed making a mess of the people that share the content”. He didn’t have any regrets.

Why did fake news flourish before the election? There are too many hypotheses to settle on a single explanation. Economists would explain it in terms of supply and demand. Initially, there were only a few such websites, but their creators noticed that sharing fake news stories on Facebook generated considerable pageviews (the number of visits on the page) for them. Their obvious conclusion: there was a demand for sensational political news from a sizeable portion of the web-browsing public. Because pageviews can be monetized by running Google ads alongside the fake stories, the response was swift: an industry of fake news websites grew quickly to supply fake content and feed the public’s demand. The creators of this content were scattered all over the world. As BuzzFeed reported, a cluster of more than 100 fake news websites was run by individuals in the remote town of Ceres, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

How did the people in Macedonia manage to spread their fake stories on Facebook and earn thousands of dollars in the process? In addition to creating a cluster of fake news websites, they also created fake Facebook accounts that looked like real people and then had these accounts subscribe to real Facebook groups, such as “Hispanics for Trump” or “San Diego Berniecrats”, where conversations about the election were taking place. Every time the fake news websites published a new story, the fictitious accounts would share them in the Facebook groups they had joined. The real people in the groups would then start spreading the fake news article among their Facebook followers, successfully completing the misinformation cycle. These misinformation-spreading techniques were already known to researchers, but not to the public at large. My colleague Takis Metaxas and I discovered and documented one such technique used on Twitter all the way back in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate election between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown.

There is an important takeaway here for all of us: fake news doesn’t become dangerous because it’s created or because it is published; it becomes dangerous when members of the public decide that the news is worth spreading. The most ingenious part of spreading fake news is the step of “infiltrating” groups of people who are most susceptible to the story and will fall for it.  As explained in this news article, the Macedonians tried different political Facebook groups, before finally settling on pro-Trump supporters.

Once “fake news” entered Facebook’s ecosystem, it was easy for people who agreed with the story and were compelled by the clickbait nature of the headlines to spread it organically. Often these stories made it to the Facebook’s Trending News list. The top 20 fake news stories about the election received approximately 8.7 million views on Facebook, 1.4 million more views than the top 20 real news stories from 19 of the major news websites (CNN, New York Times, etc.), as an analysis by BuzzFeed News demonstrated. Facebook initially resisted the accusation that its platform had enabled fake news to flourish. However, after weeks of intense pressure from media and its user base, it introduced a series of changes to its interface to mitigate the impact of fake news. These include involving third-party fact-checkers to assign a “Disputed” label to posts with untrue claims, suppressing posts with such a label (making them less visible and less spreadable) and allowing users to flag stories as fake news.

It’s too early to assess the effect these changes will have on the sharing behavior of Facebook users. In the meantime, the fake news industry is targeting a new audience: the liberal voters. In March, the fake quote “It’s better for our budget if a cancer patient dies more quickly,” attributed to Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, appeared on a website titled US Political News, operated by an individual in Kosovo. The story was shared over 80,000 times on Facebook.

Fake news has always been with us, starting with The Great Moon Hoax in 1835. What is different now is the existence of a mass medium, the Web, that allows anyone to monetize content through advertising. Since the cost of producing fake news is negligible, and the monetary rewards substantial, fake news is likely to persist. The journey that fake news takes only begins with its publication. We, the reading public who share these stories, triggered by headlines engineered to make us feel outraged or elated, are the ones who take the news on its journey. Let us all learn to resist such sharing impulses.

by metaxas at May 02, 2017 03:19 AM

May 01, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Postdoc Yang Liu Publishes in the 26th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-17)
May 1, 2017

CRCS Postdoc Yang Liu Publishes in the 26th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-17):

Yang Liu and Mingyan Liu. Crowd Learning: Improving Online Decision Making Using Crowdsourced Data. IJCAI 2017, Melbourne, Australia.

by Gabriella Fee at May 01, 2017 07:04 PM

Postdoc Nisarg Shah Publishes in the 18th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC-17)
May 1, 2017

CRCS Postdoc Nisarg Shah has two papers published in the 18th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC-17):

Fair Public Decision Making, with Vincent Conitzer and Rupert Freeman

Peer Prediction with Heterogeneous Users, with Arpit Agarwal, Debmalya Mandal, and David C. Parkes

by Gabriella Fee at May 01, 2017 07:01 PM

Postdoc Fei Fang's Dissertation Selected as Runner-Up for IFAAMAS Victor Lessor Distinguished Dissertation Award
May 1, 2017

CRCS Postdoc Fei Fang's dissertation, “Towards Addressing Spatio-Temporal Aspects in Security Games,” was selected as the runner-up for the IFAAMAS Victor Lessor Distinguished Dissertation Award.

by Gabriella Fee at May 01, 2017 06:48 PM

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