Michael saved in Pocket: ‘P for Political: Participation is Not Enough’ (Beck 2002)

Abstract

Is participatory design outdated in Scandinavia? Many would say it is. Yet, as information Systems (IS) diffusion continues in familiar and new guises, IS researchers and developers face political dilemmas through the conduct of their work. These are precisely the original area of concern for the research area of Participatory Design (PD). How, then to make PD better reflect contemporary concerns?

This paper argues the danger of complacency among Scandinavian IS researchers about the position and meaning of PD: Some researchers reject PD altogether; some who previously have contributed to PD speak of new circumstances making it harder or less relevant today. The paper critically examines a number of such arguments. In a world made “global” by information and communication technologies (ICTs), political concerns remain of the minds of many. PD must encompass work motivated in political conscience which is expressed through a range of approaches and conducted at multiple points throughout the processes of computer development and adoption, not only participatory design. In this sense, PD needs to become broader. Further, participatory design work which does not contribute to challenging patterns of dominance or understanding how to do so currently remain within PD. This is another problem for PD and in this sense the area needs to become more focused.

In sum, PD must develop a stronger demand for analyses of societal/political/ethical consequences of ICT development, management, adoption or use. Thus, systems design would be one of several foci contributors might address. To indicate the range of new possibilities for activism, issues are suggested that might benefit from enquiry motivated in concern for dominated groups.

View full article

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘The politics of artificial intelligence: an interview with Louise Amoore’ (Open Democracy, Louise Amoore and Krystian Woznicki, 2018)

Excerpt (Louise Amoore)

‘…it is worth reflecting on what one means by ‘self learning’ in the context of algorithms. As algorithms such as deep neural nets and random forests become deployed in border controls, in one sense they do self-learn because they are exposed to a corpus of data (for example on past travel) from which they generate clusters of shared attributes. When people say that these algorithms ‘detect patterns’, this is what they mean really – that the algorithms group the data according to the presence or absence of particular features in the data.

Where we do need to be careful with the idea of ‘self learning’, though, is that this is in no sense fully autonomous. The learning involves many other interactions, for example with the humans who select or label the training data from which the algorithms learn, with others who move the threshold of the sensitivity of the algorithm (recalibrating false positives and false negatives at the border), and indeed interactions with other algorithms such as biometric models.’

View full article

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Infrastructure and the Post-Truth Era: is Trump Twitter’s Fault?’ (Oliver 2020)

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between social media and political rhetoric. Social media platforms are frequently discussed in relation to ‘post-truth’ politics, but it is less clear exactly what their role is in these developments. Specifically, this paper focuses on Twitter as a case, exploring the kinds of rhetoric encouraged or discouraged on this platform. To do this, I will draw on work from infrastructure studies, an area of Science and Technology Studies; and in particular, on Ford and Wajcman’s analysis of the relationships between infrastructure, knowledge claims and politics on Wikipedia. This theoretical analysis will be supplemented with evidence from previous studies and in the public domain, to illustrate the points made. This analysis echoes wider doubts about the credibility of technologically deterministic accounts of technology’s relationship with society, but suggests however that while Twitter may not be the cause of shifts in public discourse, it is implicated in them, in that it both creates new norms for discourse and enables new forms of power and inequality to operate.

View full article