2019 > Keynotes
What do just data governance strategies need in the 21st century?
Seeta Peña Gangadharan
Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communications London School of Economics and Political Science
Our Data Bodies (www.odbproject.org) launched in 2015, as a research and organizing project that aims to understand the impacts of data collection and data-driven systems on the lives of marginalized people in the United States. In-depth interviews and participatory workshops with residents in Charlotte’s, Detroit’s, and Los Angeles’ most vulnerable neighborhoods reveal a range of norms and practices of the marginalized in confronting everyday commercial and state surveillance. Residents have called for human-centered society based around ideas of recognition, respect, esteem, love, and friendship, while engaging in acts of refusal that range from correcting misclassifications or flawed data to abolishing automated decision systems. These appeals to holistic approaches and acts of refusal for confronting and governing a data-driven society and challenge dominant policy discourses such as privacy and fairness frameworks for statistical and automated decision systems. At the same, however, Our Data Bodies’ findings invite reflection about the power and politics of exemplarity and the implication that these first-hand stories and insights hold for other alternative governance strategies put forward by critical scholars and practitioners. Governance strategies built upon the logic of refusal differ in important ways, for example, from antitrust or competition regulation designed to curtail big tech and limit information asymmetries between data subject and controllers, or technical solutions focused on instantiating difference or intersectionality “constraints” in automated decision systems. Seeta Peña Gangadharan examines refusal alongside these and other governance strategies in order to assess possibilities beyond privacy or fairness frameworks. Who or what benefits from developing and implementing refusal, competition, intersectionality “constraints” or other alternative governance strategies? And how do these strategies compare and interact with one another? Seeta Peña Gangadharan argues that both friction and alignment will be central to moving beyond privacy and fairness and sustaining just and democratic values in a datafied society.
Seeta Peña Gangadharan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she studies technology, governance, and justice. Before joining the Department in 2015, she was Senior Research Fellow at New America’s Open Technology Institute, addressing policies and practices related to digital inclusion, privacy, and “big data.” Before OTI, she was a Postdoctoral Associate in Law and MacArthur Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. She received her PhD from Stanford University and holds an MSc from the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Currently, she serves as a Program Fellow at New America’s Open Technology Institute and Affiliate Fellow of Data & Society Research Institute. Her research has been supported by grants from Digital Trust Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, Ford Foundation, and Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.
Data Power and Counterpower with Chinese Characteristics
Jack Linchuan Qiu
Professor at School of Journalism and Communication Chinese University of Hong Kong
For more than six decades, actors in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have dreamed of and invested in various cybernetic futures: Maoist or neoliberal, postsocialist or postcapitalist. Yet, most of these dreams ended up in vain. The latest attempt of technological buildup, epitomized by the dispute centered on Huawei, seems to suggest that China has become a global “AI superpower” with sufficient prowess to challenge American dominance and the supremacy of Silicon Valley. From a historical and critical perspective, this talk questions the bi-polar elitist framework of China vis-a-vis the US by introducing the internal complexities of the Chinese data systems, particularly along the fault line of social class. The argument is that formations of data counterpower in China are diverse and dynamic, both on- and offline, within China proper and beyond. While Chinese data power routinely responds to external vectors (e.g., Silicon Valley, Wall Street), it is likely that its ultimate fate will hinge upon issues of domestic in/security and exceptional historical moments of internal structural realignments, as observed in the history of PRC since the 1950s.
Jack Linchuan Qiu is Professor at School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he directs the Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research (C-Centre) and co-directs the Centre for Social Innovation Studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. His research focuses on information and communication technologies (ICTs), social class, globalization, and social change. He is an elected Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA) and recipient of the C. Edwin Baker Award for the Advancement of Scholarship on Media, Markets and Democracy in 2019. He has published more than 100 research articles and chapters and 10 books in both English and Chinese including Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition (U of Illinois Press, 2016), World Factory in the Information Age (Guangxi Normal U Press, 2013), and Working-Class Network Society (MIT Press, 2009). His work has been translated into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. He has served on the editorial boards of 14 academic journals, including six indexed in the Social Science Citation Index. He works with grassroots NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organizations, while serving as the President of Chinese Communication Association (CCA) since September 2019.
The Power of Data Science Ontogeny: Thick Data on the Indian IT Skill Tutoring Microcosm
Associate Professor at the Kohli Centre on Intelligent Systems Indian Institute of Information Technology, IIIT, Hyderabad
Notions of power embedded in the learning structures of science & technology education are undergoing transformations post the liberalisation era in India. New demands of a growing Indian software service industry are spawning neo-educational structures, especially in the domain of data sciences. The latter invariably pose a challenge to the inherent elitism and power of the existing science and technology education through vibrant market mechanisms offering a scalable and industry focussed learning system. Since the 1990s, Indian software firms have developed expertise in carrying out outsourced back office tasks and mid-level IT services like data entry, managing call centres and performing software quality testing for foreign companies taking advantage of a technically trained local workforce. However, the rapidly improving automation technologies are allowing AI-based software to carry out routine IT support work, and repetitive back office tasks that were previously performed by human actors–the very tasks that global companies originally outsourced to India. This trend of automating manual work practices in the IT industry has generated a different kind of demand for Data Sciences directed at up-skilling and job readiness. India is home to the largest under-25 demographic profile in the world requiring a wide-spread, skill-oriented, job ready education equipping youth to thrive in highly dynamic job markets. India has been witnessing a market oriented ground swell of Data Science and IT skill tutoring ‘shops’ restituting a science and engineering education. A closer exploration of the Indian markets of tutoring acknowledges a complex system of demand and supply; a vast variegated clientele ; an embedded actor network in a seasoned socio-technical microcosm. I discuss the contestations to the power of hierarchical and elite educational structures in India the IT tutoring market pose; especially as a skilling, scalable and situated eco-system of learning.
Nimmi Rangaswamy is currently Associate Professor at the Kohli Centre on Intelligent Systems, Indian Institute of Information Technology, IIIT, Hyderabad. She will be bringing an anthropological lens in understanding the impacts of AI research and praxis. She is also Adjunct Professor at the Indian institute of Technology, IIT, Hyderabad where she teaches courses at the intersections of society and technology. Formerly, she was a senior research scientist and lead the Human Interactions research area at the Xerox Research Center India. She worked in the building of technologies in the areas of consumer-centric heath care and urban mobility. Previously, her job at Microsoft Research was a combination of theoretical analysis and ethnographic field research to understand technology use in developing countries. These are studies of patterns of technology adoption in various social contexts and spaces in India, ranging from middle-class consumption of domestic media, the business models of cyber cafés and the use of mobile internet and Facebook among urban slum youth.