Talk on “Using Data for Science Journalism” at International School of Science Journalism, 10th May 2015

Talk on “Using Data for Science Journalism” at International School of Science Journalism, 10 May 2015

Today Liliana Bounegru and I gave a talk at the International School of Science Journalism in Erice, Italy about the uses of data in science journalism. The slides from our talk are included below.

In addition to the talk we ran a workshop on how to design data projects – which resulted in project briefs looking into drones, vaccination and the public reach of scientists.

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Talk on “Digital Transparency and the Politics of Open Data” at King’s College London, 8th May 2015

I was invited to give a talk at a conference on the “Politics of Big Data” at King’s College London, which took place yesterday. I spoke about “Digital Transparency and the Politics of Open Data” and gave an overview of several ongoing research projects around these topics. The abstract for the talk was as follows, and the slides are included below.

In recent years the concept of open data has developed from being a niche idea at the margins of software development communities to playing a central role in global information policy. This paper draws on a combination of historical and empirical research to examine open data as a contested political concept that is continually reconfigured in response to shifting ideals, conceptions and practices of governance and democracy in different contexts. This includes work towards a “genealogy of open data”, as well as the findings from several research projects at the Digital Methods Initiative to map the politics of open data as an issue on digital media. It concludes with reflections on open data initiatives as sociotechnical assemblages and on emerging forms of intervention calling not just for the disclosure of information but for more fundamental changes in the composition of information infrastructures that organise collective life.

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Posted in academia, actor-network theory, conferences, data, digital methods, digitalhumanities, history, open data, policy, politics, research | Leave a comment

On Critical Theories and Digital Media

The following is a review of David M. Berry’s Critical Theory and the Digital (London: Bloomsbury, 2014) and Christian Fuchs’s Social Media: A Critical Introduction (London: Sage, 2014) which was published in Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy 2015, Issue 1: Pirates & Privateers.

What might critical theory contribute to the study of digital media? And how might the study of digital media help to advance, complicate or challenge concepts, theories and agendas associated with critical theory, broadly conceived? These questions are central to two recent books by David Berry and Christian Fuchs, who both draw on the theoretical legacy of Frankfurt’s Institute for Social Research to analyse the social, economic, cultural, political implications of new kinds of information technologies.

The two books are set against the background of the accelerating and deepening entanglement of digital technologies and their accompanying concepts and practises with nearly all areas of human life, exemplified by phenomena such as ‘flash crashes’ caused by self-learning algorithms that trade with each other automatically, weaponised computer viruses capable of destroying military equipment, brain interfaces and ‘secondary memory’ devices, ubiquitous state and corporate surveillance, networked social and political movements, hyper-temporary digital jobs, gargantuan real-time data streams, drone assassinations, attention markets, 3D printed guns, darknets and megaleaks. Berry and Fuchs both argue for the continuing relevance of thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School (as well as their philosophical progenitors and progeny), whom have hitherto occupied a comparatively marginal position in new media studies, in understanding these developments.

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Dutch student protests ignite movement for the democratisation of universities

An edited version of the following piece appeared in The Guardian on 17th March 2015 with the title “Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities”. For other pieces in the Guardian see my contributor profile.

Protesters outside the University of Amsterdam on 25th February 2015. Photograph: © 2015 Wimer Hazenberg/flickr.com/photos/monokai

Protesters outside the University of Amsterdam on 25th February 2015.
Photograph: © 2015 Wimer Hazenberg / flickr.com/photos/monokai

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New research project to map the impact of open budget data

I’m pleased to announce a new research project to examine the impact of open budget data, undertaken as a collaboration between Open Knowledge and the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam, supported by the Global Initiative for Financial Transparency (GIFT).

The project will include an empirical mapping of who is active around open budget data around the world, and what the main issues, opportunities and challenges are according to different actors. On the basis of this mapping it will provide a review of the various definitions and conceptions of open budget data, arguments for why it matters, best practises for publication and engagement, as well as applications and outcomes in different countries around the world.

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Guardian piece on why open data matters for social justice and democratic accountability

This piece was originally published in The Guardian on 20th February 2015 with the title “Five ways open data can boost democracy around the world”. For other pieces see my Guardian profile.

On 21 February, thousands of transparency activists, software developers, designers, researchers, public servants, and civil society groups are gathering at more than 100 cities around the world for the fifth global Open Data Day.

In political speeches and recent reports there has been a significant focus on the potential of open data for economic growth and public sector efficiency. But open data isn’t just all about silicon roundabouts and armchair auditors. Here are five reasons why open data matters for social justice and democratic accountability.

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New research project exploring tensions between open data, data protection and privacy

I’m pleased to announce a new research project exploring the tensions between open data, data protection and privacy. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Institute for Information Law (IVIR) and the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) at the University of Amsterdam. It is funded by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology.

I’m involved in the project as an issue expert on open data (through my work as Director of Policy and Research at Open Knowledge), as well as as an Associate Researcher at the Digital Methods Initiative.

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Deadly Crossings: the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border

Inspired by a social media post from the historian Richard Drayton comparing fatalities from crossing the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border, I decided to have a quick look into the numbers and created this quick chart using Infogram.

Starting with Wikipedia articles on deaths from crossing the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border, the data was largely sourced from estimates from the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam (ZZF), the United States Border Patrol, the Mexican Government as well as via this report from the International Organization for Migration in Geneva.

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Interview on Russia Today about social spending in UK

Following is a clip from a live TV interview I recently gave on RT (formerly “Russia Today”) about the gap between public perceptions and the numbers on benefit fraud and social spending in the UK.

Interview on Russia Today about social spending in UK from Jonathan Gray on Vimeo.

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Book Review: Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future by Martin Eve

The following piece is cross-posted from LSE Review of Books.

Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future. Martin Eve. Cambridge University Press. 2014.

The dream of “universal access to all knowledge” (as the Internet Archive puts it) is, of course, not unique to our age. Aspirations to enable ever more people to partake in the fruits of human knowledge evolve in tandem with the practises, epistemologies and mythologies of the day – from magical and mathematical languages to universal library catalogues, hubristically epic corporate scanning empires to climate controlled bunkers for endangered books.

The advent of the internet has given this kind of dream a level of traction and tangibility that it may have lacked when the primary infrastructure of global knowledge transfer consisted of paper, pigeons, and postal systems. The spread of information technologies and communication networks have given rise to bright-eyed new narratives of sharing knowledge at what economists call “the marginal cost of reproduction”, which, in principle, could give everyone with an internet connection access at close to zero cost.

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