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Call for Participants

Call for Participants

Interested in real-world problem-solving, research with impact and networking opportunities? Join our Spring 2021 online research sprint open to Masters- and PhD-level students from all disciplines and geographies.

Deadline To Apply: Tuesday, February 23 by 8:00am (EST/Boston time)/9pm (Hong Kong time)

The Digital Asia Hub in collaboration with the Berkman Klein Center and the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers and under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier is looking for students who want to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team from mid-March to mid-May 2021 on exploring the notion of “digital self-determination” from different perspectives and across cultural contexts. The goal of the sprint is to create and populate an evolving repository of readings, case studies, examples, and narratives that together provide a thick description of the evolving notion of digital self-determination and its normative context.

In a nutshell:

  • The research sprint is hosted by the Digital Asia Hub with the support of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and will take place virtually from March 15th - May 15th, 2021.
  • The program brings together leading experts and mentors from the Digital Asia Hub and the Berkman Klein Center and its global partner organizations from the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers. 
  • The program consists of three elements: A series of up to 9 synchronous sessions online, with assignments and other occasional (optional) offerings, including “social” gatherings, for networking and mentorship. 
  • Students at the Masters- and PhD-level from all disciplines are invited to apply and will be actively involved in all parts of the program.
  • We invite participation from students globally.
  • The program will use several computer applications to facilitate everything including Zoom, Google Drive, and Slack. 
  • Students who complete the program will be eligible for a stipend of up to $1000.

What we offer student participants:

  • Research with impact: A unique opportunity to participate in hands-on research activities on a pressing issue and with real-world impact opportunity. 
  • Mentorship and networking: Engaging with leading experts in the field of digital technology, education, policy, and ethics and making connections with other scholars around the world.
  • Skill building: As part of an interdisciplinary research team and on an accelerated timeline, improve and expand research and collaboration skills. 

What we are looking for:

  • Passion for interdisciplinary research in a novel and highly collaborative program.
  • Excellent academic qualifications (near-completed Masters degree; PhD in progress/planned or advanced PhD, post-doctoral researcher).
  • Fluency in English and knowledge of one other language are a plus.
  • Commitment to take part in weekly ~2-hour virtual sessions between March 15 and May 15 on Thursdays at 8am (Eastern Standard Time)/9pm (Hong Kong time) and a willingness to attend periodic social gatherings.
  • Average time commitment of up to 10 hours a week, depending on your capacities.
  • Motivation to produce research outputs within the time of the sprint and to contribute to a joint publication.

Background:

The Spring 2021 Research Sprint, hosted by the Digital Asia Hub in collaboration with the Berkman Klein Center and the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers, explores the evolving normative concept of “digital self-determination” as an enabler of - or at least contributor - to the exercise of autonomy and agency in the face of shrinking choices. In a world that is increasingly constructed, mediated and at times even dominated by digital technologies and digital media, including the underlying infrastructures, questions of control, power and equity become more critical.

In contemporary ethics debates, the notion of digital self-determination is invoked as a term to describe the possibility and realization of human flourishing as it relates to the use of digital technologies and their affordances. In policy debates, the concept has gained prominence in broader discussions about digital autonomy and digital sovereignty. Several efforts by governments and civil society organizations are underway to examine how civic and economic participation in the digital space can be enhanced based on the value of digital self-determination. 

The Research Sprint will provide a unique opportunity for participants to explore the notion of digital self-determination from different perspectives and across cultural contexts. It invites examination of the concept both in theory and practice. The Sprint will explore what digital self-determination means and requires at the individual level, for instance regarding people’s ability to decide for themselves what data they want to disclose, to whom, under what conditions, and with what benefits. It will also engage with questions at the structural and systemic level, such as barriers to exercising such choices, and the stakes and consequences of certain design decisions.  

The Sprint also hopes to discuss the social contexts and conditions surrounding the notion of digital self-determination and see it in interaction with values such as digital solidarity and realizations of collective embeddedness that are in contrast to individualistic accounts of human flourishing. While the challenges and roadblocks to digital self-determination have taken center stage in public discourse, the Sprint will pay equal attention to the manifestations of and future opportunities for self-determination across digital spaces and contexts, including efforts aimed at creating “trustworthy” data spaces, data cooperatives, and related models. 

Blending theoretical and practical perspectives and bringing together participants and experts from many disciplines and across the globe, the Research Sprint is intended as a “global classroom” for mutual learning and open exchange. The goal of the collaboration is to create and populate an evolving repository of readings, case studies, examples, and narratives that together provide a thick description of the evolving notion of digital self-determination and its normative context. 

The envisioned “living repository” will invite future explorations and collaborations, aim to be useful in educational contexts, and contribute to current policy debates at a critical moment in time when societies have to make important choices about possible futures in which digital technologies continue to play an essential role, for better or worse. 

The Sprint will start in the week of March 15, and end the week of May 15, 2021.

Application:

  • Please apply by filling out this application form by Tuesday, February 23 by 8:00am (EST/Boston time)/9pm (Hong Kong time). Applicants will receive notification of admission no later than Friday, March 5 by 5:00pm (EST/Boston time)/6am (Hong Kong time). 
  • The form will require that you include a link to your CV or Resume that is accessible online (on a website, in a cloud-drive, etc). Please make sure if using a cloud-storage, the link settings are set to allow for people to access the document.

Support and Stipends: 

  • Students who complete the program will be eligible for a stipend of up to $1000. 
  • International students based in the US without an eligible work permit are NOT eligible for the stipend. Otherwise, students from around the world are welcomed to apply.  Please consult your legal counsel and institution if you have questions about your eligibility to participate/receive stipends. Stipend payments will come from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

For questions and inquiries, please contact leaton@cyber.harvard.edu

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Image by by Trey Ratcliff / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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