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Building global open-access knowledge on Digital Self-Determination

Building global open-access knowledge on Digital Self-Determination

Research Sprint advances understanding of digital self-determination through international collaboration

The Berkman Klein Center’s latest Research Sprint, co-hosted with Digital Asia Hub, explored digital self-determination, a multi-faceted concept that includes ownership and agency over one’s data, and what it means cross-culturally and through various lenses, including for example how digital self-determination can and should play out in areas such as health, the gig economy, and the information economy. The program is part of an ongoing collaboration with the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers (NoC) to advance dialogue and action at the intersection of science, politics, digital economy, and civil society.

The Research Sprint invited a cohort of 25 students participating from 21 different countries and six continents, to create living resources and build out open-access educational materials and information on this area from a broad, global perspective. Through weekly discussions and creative projects including short visual documents on topics, presentations, podcasts, and videos, they evolved their understanding of the term -- and used what they learned to help set the stage for future work in the area. 

"Having done much of my graduate coursework in isolation over the course of the past year, I found the Research Sprint’s collaborative nature and discussions to be incredibly refreshing,” said participant Hillary McLauchlin. “The Sprint illustrated what remote learning is at its best––bringing together students and experts from across the globe to share perspectives and work towards a common project. I’m feeling all the more energized as I return to my dissertation and continue to think about the many questions highlighted during the Sprint.”

The cohort developed the inaugural version of the Wikipedia entry for digital self-determination, as well as a Wikiversity living syllabus providing resources and readings for open use by other educational programs around the world.

“I find it extremely valuable that the content produced during the research sprint was aimed to be re-used as a part of a learning space available for everybody with Internet access. The fact that the work we've done contributes to building the awareness and skills in the field of digital self-determination in such a direct way rewards all the effort and time invested in creating them. It also brings hope that the academic work we do on our paths as scholars from different scientific and cultural backgrounds has the synergic potential of building multi-dimensional learning environments accessible for everyone, regardless of the location and budget of both the creators and the audience," said participant Karolina Alama-Maruta. 

The Research Sprint fostered a global community of learning and connection -- convening graduate students for discussions and projects around topics related to digital self-determination. 

“Throughout the Sprint, and especially through my artifacts and contributions to our Wikipedia entry on digital self-determination, I approached the challenge of defining this complex term as an opportunity to map out the main elements underlying the various digital ethics and public-interest technology discussions led by scholars, politicians, industry, activists, and civil society organizations,” said participant Constanza M. Vidal Bustamante. “Engaging with this multifaceted, multi-sectoral body of work deepened my understanding of the ongoing challenges to human flourishing in the digital sphere, and helped me identify the components I am most passionate about and can contribute to the most in my work moving forward.”

Through weekly sessions, students learned from guest speakers who presented their work and proposed ideas for students to dig into. The Research Sprint also extended the legacy of these meetings to the BKC and DAH community and other stakeholders via a weekly newsletter that provided syntheses and key takeaways from the discussions. 

“The insights from our global cohort of mentors and our artifact-oriented research all point to a common need for communication bridging academia and the public, as well as across geographies and cultures, considering how concerns of privacy, autonomy, and human flourishing are incredibly diverse,” said participant Carmen Ng. “So I would say the Sprint has inspired me to be entrepreneurial in fostering inclusive discussions on digital self-determination, be it through localized content, interactive workshops, or participatory art."

The Sprint follows earlier efforts, including BKC’s Fall 2020 Sprint on COVID-19 and Access to Education and Learning Spaces, and contributes to the NoC’s Ethics of Digitalization initiative under the patronage of the German Federal President and with support by Stiftung Mercator.  
 

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