‘Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but the health care system does.‘ And the same can be applied to the Covid19 pandemic. The need of queering curriculum is even stronger in the time of the Covid19 pandemic, because no knowledge should be treated as norms. We live in a diverse world and our experiences vary. With the uncertainties we are facing, we need to be open-minded, tolerant and adaptive.
Let’s see where the queering curriculum initiative takes us in the new year.
While many of us are pleased with the unusual opportunity to improve our cooking skills during the lockdown, others who lack the skills or means to bake or cook at home suffer immensely. The lockdown experience and the publication of Dimbleby’s report highlight the timeliness and importance of the collaboration I formed with the non-for-profit company Bags of Taste.
Bags of Taste believe everyone should be able to afford good food. They task themselves to teach people how to improve their diet.
In spring term 2019/20, my students on the module ‘Strategic Digital Communication’ worked on the live brief set by the founder of Bags of Taste Ltd., Alicia Weston, to develop multi-channel advertising campaigns to raise awareness of food poverty and persuade people to subscribe to the Bags of Taste courses.
Unfortunately, my cunning idea of getting my students to experience Bags of Taste’s cooking classes was hit by the ‘lockdown’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. Bags of Taste is also hit by Covid19 so they can’t run face-to-face courses. We don’t know how Bags of Taste’s unique approach will transpire given the Covid-19 pandemic. Without the first hand experience with cooking, it is more difficult to convert people from takeaway to home made food, I imagine.
I guess it’d be a challenge for us to deliver a strategic communication plan in the era of the pandemic. Can AR or VR help to deliver a more effective (and more sensational) message?
I have been involved in so many projects throughout my career, and sometimes lost track of the trajectory I have been making towards researching data ethics and data surveillance. The conversation with Dr Nony and the audience allowed me to (re-)visit and (re-)think the work I have produced in the past years, using theoretical concepts proposed by Dr Nony to look at my engagement with theory and practice in my not-so-short academic career so far.
I tried to summarise our conversation below:
Situated data ethics and data practices
Designing and creating ‘artefacts’ has become an important part in my teaching and research practices. I particularly enjoy developing artivist projects that require physical interactions as they prompt ‘affect’ (e.g., asking students to do street interviews to ask people to read out terms and conditions of a social media platform that they use). In a way, I think I am tackling the problem with desensitization about data surveillance, clicktivism, slacktivism. I exercise what Nony terms ‘cultural agency’ in her work ‘Nootechnics of the Digital‘.
What actions can media users take to ensure a “healthy” relationship with augmentation?
A good question followed up from the audience was on how to address data ethics in the uptake of AR technologies. That allowed me to talk about situated veillance practices and contextual data ethics, agency and control over technologies. We choose to sacrifice something in order to gain certain benefits. It’s a trade-off to think about how we negotiate data ethics.
But are we really in control? Are we really at peace with consent? Or, are we forced to have peace with consent, accepting the conditions? When we leave digital footprints on the internet, are we really conscious about what we are doing?
Meanings of data
Nony followed it up by cleverly picking up the ‘data journey’ framework Dr. Jo Bates, I and others developed in the AHRC-funded project ‘The Social Life of a Weather Datum‘, and using that to question (un)certainties of data when they travel, mutate. We don’t know what is going to happen after we give away our personal data, what meanings or practices would emerge after data are re-mixed, re-configured. Given the immateriality of data, once it’s gone, it’s no longer the one we used to own. Data mutate, all the time. It’s paradoxical that we thought big data would help us to predict the future, but on the contrary, as data being remixed, we are observing ‘uncertainties’ and how facts and established meanings being challenged.
Another good question about why physical interactions are affective. I think a lot of sensory experiences cannot be captured or datafied. There are a lot more we don’t know even if we thought we were collecting and processing massive amount of data already. There are also data that are unprocessable (for the time being). And these unattainable data, uncomputable data allow us to think about ‘invisibility’ of data practices. A lot of digital labour are invisible: for example, preparation, cleaning, training, checking, monitoring, etc. However, they are important for making sense of the data, making data visible. Why people engage in these invisible data labour when they don’t get any reward (e.g., parkrunners, digital slaves).
And this is linked with power relationships and power dynamics in the big data realm. Who are privileged by big data? How gender, race, ethnicity, class shape participation in data surveillance or souveillance (a concept proposed by Steve Mann)? Who has the rights to be forgotten? Who has the rights to know? Whose memories can be preserved, downloaded and archived (as seen in the BBC drama ‘Year and Years’)? Who has access to emergent technologies? Unfortunately, often we find those richer and better connected people can and benefit more.
A good question from Nony was about ’emancipatory media’. I felt I was empowered when I could figure out how to build an Arduino prototype, how I could build a Raspberry Pi weather station. Even if it took me a long time to learn (as I’m not a developer or a coder), but I felt empowered and a sense of achievement once I did it. It’s about self-development. But, today’s digital data-driven society expects efficiency, immediacy, instancy, rapid responses from people (and non-humans). Technologists and scientists, unlike humanists, expect accuracy and efficiency. They follow clock time, machine time. However, if humanistic approaches require us to slow down, to have some ‘Me time’, to have time for learning, appreciating and reflection. We’ll probably feel more liberated, emancipated if we enjoy ‘slow computing’ more. It’s about appreciating diversity, playfulness.
I asked the audience what data they were afraid of giving away. One said ‘Intellectual productions and personal data (ssn, address, passport number, etc)’. And one responded ‘forced consent aspect of applications.’
I personally learned a lot from participating in this webinar. I’m grateful to Tarez for this opportunity, to my co-speaker Anais for the enlightenment and intellectual inspiring conversation, and to the audience for the great questions and responses. I wish there will be another outlet where we can continue the discussion.
If you’d like to listen to the recorded webinar, visit here.
Led by the designer himself, this game was accompanied by live performance with musician Amit Sharma and painter Aimee Johanan. The musician recorded fragments of the players’ voices as the game unfolds, manipulated them in real-time to generate melodic and rhythmic soundscapes. The painter improvised some colourful abstract paintings based on the narratives shared by the players.
There was five of us playing. We all came from different countries. We played this game in turn. On our turn, we had to flip two cards and share a memory promted by the words on those cards. For example, if I flipped ‘Mum’ and ‘Listen’, I had to tell a story about my mum (or someone else’s mum) and ‘listening’. Then, these two words would be covered by fade cards (tracing paper) once I finished with telling my story. And people around the table had to remember my stories, and the locations of the words. When identical words appeared, the playing person had to re-tell the original stories (to an acceptable standard), and locate these two identical words in order to remove the fade cards covered on top.
Once all the pairs of words were found (15 pairs in total) and the whole team won. And if the team ran out of the fade cards (there were only 16 of them), then the team lost. It is team work, definitely.
Apart from remembering the stories and the location of the words, the game is also about sharing and active listening. In fact, if the players don’t listen actively during the play, it’d be difficult to recite the stories. It would also be easier for other team members to remember your stories if the stories had specific time, space, event.
I also recalled someone who flipped two cards: Brother and Talk. This person shared a story about she and her brother. They used to be very close to each other, but after her brother got a scholarship and moved to Beijing, they kind of lost in touch. Since all popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp were all banned in China, her brother asked her to install WeChat. But after she created an account, WeChat blocked her because they thought she, being outside China, did not have legitimate reason to use WeChat. After two attempts, she gave up. Now she could no longer talk to her brother.
It is a great game to make friends. It helps people to open up, a perfect ice breaker.
This is how far we got to within an hour:
And the session was being recorded and live streamed on Instagram:
Matteo created the #FadingMemories game to remember his late nonna who suffered from dementia at the end of her life. There was another exhibiting project that also aims to address the problems faced by people living with dementia – Music Memory Box. It’s a treasure box in which you can fill with meaningful objects (shells, photographs, toy cars, etc.) People can place a sensor on an object, and link a song to play when you put the item in the centre of the box. This project was inspired by the designer Chloe Meineck’s personal experience with her great gran who had dementia, and supported by a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
These playful projects helps overcome those negative emotions (such as sadness and anxiety) caused by dementia or loss of memories. And it’s great to have found them at the Digital Design Weekend at the V&A Museum.
Data is everywhere, ubiquitous and plentiful. But data labour, which renders data, is often invisible, hidden, and unpaid. The rights of data workers are oppressed and overlooked. This is particularly true in the case of ‘fluid data’ (Shacklock 2016) in a marketised higher education sector.
Much has been said about the utilities of data in a data-centric higher education sector (see for example Shacklock 2016, Sclater et al. 2016, Palmer and Kim 2018). But in general, learning analytics means using aggregated information resulting from the analysis of the data gathered from class activities with the aim of improving instructional design, enriching didactic methods and better understanding the role of educational agents, developing frameworks for improving strategic decision-making, organizational design, and curricular policies. It can be understood as using educational data mining to analyse student behavioural patterns and to establish relationships between the variables involved in learning processes and learning outcomes.
Here at Roehampton University, for example, reading list analytics has been used as ‘an indicative measure of student engagement’ (Celada 2019). Librarians check student engagement with the lists using the Resource Lists analytic tool, and other tips to help enhance the student experience.
Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, TurnItIn, FutureLearn MOOCs. All these virtual learning environments (VLEs), all offer what Greller and Drachsler (2012) describe ‘a powerful means to inform and support learners, teachers and their institutions in better understanding and predicting personal learning needs and performance’. However, data rights of the users of these VLEs and e-learning tools have rarely been discussed.
Admittedly, I have not discussed ‘data labour rights’ with my students when involving them in the class activities enhanced by some other cloud-based tools such as Nearpod and Kahoot.
Given the scandalous episode of Cambridge Analytica in 2018, and numerous breaches of user privacy and data rights, it is timely and important to consider ethical issues with learning analytics (Slade and Prinsloo 2013, Pardo and Siemens 2014).
My first data art piece installed at Roehampton’s Learning and Teaching Festival (10-12 June 2019) surveyed opinions about learning analytics in the higher education sector. This ‘interactive poster’ exhibition, initially conceived to make up a late submission for an interactive seminar, also unexpectedly revealed the embodied process of labour of making learning analytics, and shows how nontrivial and nonlinear the process of data production is.
There were five A3 posters, each of which has a provocative statement printed on it. Delegates were invited to take the round dot stickers of different colours to express your views about these provocative statements on a True-False spectrum. Here are the outcomes:
These five diagrams offer some insight into what the delegates at #LandTFest2019 thought of ethical issues about learning analytics. The realisation of these diagrams also ‘documented’ a few issues about data labour and data quality.
Let me start by discussing the design and creation of the posters.
The outlook of the posters was an accidental success. It was difficult (and expensive) to print white characters on black papers. So I had to print out the statements, manually cut them with a scissor and them glue them on the black papers. But, the handmade craft feature surprisingly turned out to be good looking (well, the beauty of imperfection). It also signified the analogue texture of the digital matters in question.
The nonlinear datafication process
This self-selective respondents who opted themselves in to take part in this “survey” of this interactive art work also showed a nonlinear thought process. They did not just put a dot randomly on the posters; they read the statements, went through a rather long (more than 10 seconds) thought process, and then took the action of sticking a round dot on the black papers.
And, just like some vaguely designed questionnaires, they were pondering how to interprete the phrases such as ‘one-dimensional learning’, ‘inevitable future’, and ‘surveillance culture’.
One respondent said, academics have always take students ‘data rights’ very seriously. So this participant firmly put a dot on the ‘True’ end of the statement ‘Higher Education takes students’ data rights seriously.’
One respondent thought that not all surveillance is bad. We monitor students attendance and performance in order to identify problems early so as to respond to them promptly.
One respondent thought ‘algorithmed learning’ has existed for a long, long time, even before the word ‘algorithm’ was invented. (The Arabic source, al-Ḵwārizmī ‘the man of Ḵwārizm’ (now Khiva), was a name given to the 9th-century mathematician Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Mūsa, author of widely translated works on algebra and arithmetic.). So it’s not ‘inevitable future’; it is an ongoing and still developing trend.
Common data processing issues such as missing data and data type errors are also materialised in these five diagrams. My original intention was to colour code responses to these five statements (purely for aesthetics). However, some participants did not know of this colour coding rule. With all stickers out there to be grabbed, some used one colour throughout the game without switching to other colours designated for different statements.
Colour coding reveals these unintended ‘inputs’ in this crowdsourced dataset. This highlights the importance of supervision, moderation, interference, guidance and instructions during the datafication process to ensure the quality of the data (may it be data collected from those who opt-in to take part in a survey or the production of transaction data).
The participation of delegates at the Learning and Teaching Festival was key to this project. The analogue incarnation of the posters helps reveal the often invisible data collection activity and the digital labour (and emotional labour) involved. It shows that there are mixed feelings (and very divided feelings) about learning analytics in higher education. It also shows that datafication is not a straightforward process, as one would have expected.
We need to know more about the social and political life of learning analytics in order to make better judgements and more informed discussion about how to protect the data rights of our students (when gathering information generated by student activity in digital spaces) users data rights and data labour rights in data-driven education. In line with the effort of the Data Workers Union, we need to raise awareness of data labour rights in surveillance capitalism. The co-production of this interactive piece materialises our collective ability to see.
After meeting an old friend, I went to the performance by Tina Richardson at the MMU. This research-based performance was entitled ‘The Rael/Real of Psychogeography: Urban walking as a method of ameliorating castration anxiety in Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’. In Tina Richardson’s own words:
Rael is not real, but he is a popular culture representation of a real individual who is a stranger in a new city. As a recent immigrant to New York, Rael has to negotiate the alien space that has suddenly become his home. Part hero, part graffiti artist, part urban explorer, we witness our protagonist traversing the physical landscape of the city and that of his own psyche.
This lecture explores the Lacanian concepts of castration anxiety, lack, the Other, and the real, in the context of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis, 1974). It examines the anxiety displayed in the character of the story and his attempts to work through this by using the landscape of the city as a vehicle for his own self-therapy.
By analysing Rael’s behaviour in the story, Richardson demonstrates that by taking a psychogeographic approach to the physical space of the city, and the abstract space of his own mind, Rael manages to work his way through the aesthetics of living in New York, as a foreigner, by facing his own troubled past.
It is for anyone interested in psychogeography, psychoanalysis, popular culture, cultural theory and/or progressive rock.
Funny enough, after Tina Richardson’s performance, I myself had an accidental (yet pleasant) psychogeography tour with a theatre company called ‘Hors Lits Mcr‘.
When I stepped out of Levenshulme station after getting off the train from Manchester Piccadilly, I saw a group of spectators who was about to set off to their Hor Lits theatre shows (Hor Lits #2 Levenshulme). I joined them for four mini performances at four different very private locations in Levenshulme. Theatre director Jonathan McGrath staged a moving performance in a cellar in a private house. OLA (One Little Atlas) the band played original live soundtrack to Baraka by Ron Fricke. Dancers Alice Bonazzi and Sara Marques (from Damae Dance) performed well-choreographed and emotive dance at a nursery. Finally, actor Conor A. and co. gave a comedy show about mental health issue. By walking from one venue to the other, I was experiencing Levenshulme in different way. I also learned new places in Levenshulme, met new friends. I thought the whole thing about Hors Lits was really psychogeographic.
What a day. I have enjoyed every single minute. Life is full of surprises, just like a box of chocolate (quoting Forrest Gump). I’d like to conclude this entry about my serendipitous encounters with the MMU degree show, with an old friend, and with Hors Lits Mcr with this quote from Conor’s show:
“You are not damaged; you are just shaped differently.”
After today, I am definitely less damaged than I used to be, even just slightly.
Blue sky. Clear lake. Glorious spring leaves. Gentle breeze. Perfect climate for the 12th International Week at Tampere (#iWeekTAMK)at the Mediapolis at Tampere.
Using ‘neon’ as a metaphor, iWeekTAMK2019 had a theme ‘See the invisible, hear the silence’.
The workshop I led, ‘live streaming, slow tv and digital stories’, explored different storytelling techniques in live streaming. I had three participants over this three-day workshop. We started by comparing different vlogging styles by looking into Italian, Finnish and British microcelebrities on social media. On Day 2 we looked into some classic Norweigian slow tv. On Day 3 we created small digital stories, interviewing one of the delegates from the Netherlands Hilde Spille.
I learned some new trends from the workshop participants – Italian Chiara Ferragni, Finnish mmiisas, and the ‘slow tv’ has become a new therapy for insomnia.
This year I had another interesting encounter with Finnish Sauna. We went to a public sauna, where men and women had to dress up in swimming suits to go in. The sauna room was huge, and very hot (usually between 93 to 94 celsius). Instead of a wooden sauna ladle, the ladle was made of heavy material. I had a go with it and realised why usually the job of adding water on the coal was carried out by a strong Finnish man.
I was really impressed by some of the works exhibited at the iWeekTAMK 2019. The outputs from the workshop “Linear Interpretations” led by Tibor Kecskes was particularly stunning as they utilised the neon materials so well. Nothing could capture the WOW feeling when one walked into the dark room where many neon objects were placed.
Tuomo Joronen’s ‘blow-a-kiss-o-matic’ is a clever design – see some photos.
The idea of projecting on cardboard boxes is also very clever and fits very well with the topic of the video about moving homes.
This year’s iWeekTAMK was quieter than the past events. I was the only visitor from the UK. Although there were events taking place at the same time, Brexit perhaps is another unspoken factor. The world we used to know is changing in such an unpredictable way at the moment. Events such as iWeekTAMK2019 play an important role in reiterating the values of knowledge exchange and network building.
Although media industries have always been driven by technological development, it’s interesting to see how digital tech companies are making their marks at #BVE19.
This year’s BVE focused on machine learning, AI, OTT and platforms. Content making these days is tighten with online platform delivery. AI has been applied in many aspects of media content production: sorting out content, organising metadata, making business plan. Despite promises and possibilities of machine learning and AI to transform content production and operations, it seems that most media workers are sceptical and resistent of the implementation of AI and machine learning. Not only because of job loss, but also the not-so-perfect jobs done by machines.
Audience is another keyword that kept being mentioned in the talks. Having access to cutting-edge technologies has advanced content production, but how to successfully target and communicate with audiences remains a big issue. Commissioners from MTV International, BBC Three, and Channel Four discussed their thoughts on what’s next for 16-34s. Each channel has its own focus and remits (in BBC and Channel Four’s case). For example, BBC Three’s ‘Abused by my girlfriend‘, and MTV’s ‘True Love or True Lies‘ are considered quite popular amongst young audience. But Channel Four’s ‘Shipwrecked‘ appeared to be a disaster due to content targeted for different generations of audiences mixed together.
And, data is at the heart of everything people do. To understand audience behaviours, BBC requires users to log into iPlayer so that they can monitor them. YouTube/Google is partnering with BT Sport to explore how subscriptions (data) can be turned into revenues (new ways of monetising models through targeted advertising).
But I have to say that the talk that I enjoyed the most at #BVE19 was the lecture ‘The grammar of film directing’ delivered by Patrick Tucker, an internationally acclaimed Stage and Screen Director. I am not a director and has no interest in directing a film. However, the participatory and theatrical approaches he used in delivering his lecture made it so engaging and animating. As an educator, I learned a lot from watching him teaching others. Of course, I learned one or two grammars in relation to film directing, too, such as ‘Don’t cross the line unless there’s a conflict’, and ‘how to resolve “unmotivated zoom”‘.
Yesterday when I walked into the exhibition hall at London Excel, I did not sense the usual buzzing at BVE. The damaging effect of Brexit has started to show. A big theatre for keynotes and a central stage normally occupied by a shiny new motor and cutting-edge industry-standard cameras were absent. No Sony (probably expected because of this. Instead, I observed a gazebo dome tent being used as a theatre venue, and unusual sponsorship from Skype, Dropbox, Barclays.
I do hope that there is going to be a BVE2020 as this event is a great place to network, and to learn the state of art in media industries. It may not be as big as the IBC Show in Amsterdam, but it is significant and symbolic in the UK context.
One of the student journalists has written up some very comprehensive notes about the lecture, nicely breaking down the big concepts I discussed. The article is available here) and I have copied and pasted the texts below.
隨著物聯網技術的提升，許多訊息以數據的形式傳送上雲端，並描繪出一個以數字為基底的社會觀。人們在大量的數據當中徜徉，並從中建構出自我。本學期開設「媒體與科技社會」的蕭蘋教授邀請到University of Roehampton的 Dr. Yuwei Lin，以科技社會學的角度，探究人們究竟如何運用數據建立自我以及對相關議題的批判思考。
We’re all Cyborg！ 數據化的社會學議題
數據在現代生活當中無所不在，而數據化（datafication）是什麼？Dr. Lin 將其定義為「將日常生活的行為與活動，轉換為電腦可運算的單位與形式。」而大數據這個觀念，並非是近年來的新興詞彙，過去的史料、人口普查等，其實都是數據的形式之一。另外她也提到目前數據與過往的不同，在於數據形成的過程(What’s new is the process)，而近年來由於穿戴式裝置興起，可供蒐集的資訊也愈發多元。因此，在討論數據資料時，仍需要釐清數據的形式與來源。
Despite some hiccups (e.g, journey delayed on Sunday due to the multiple signal problems on the Jubilee Line which led to a temporary suspension of Jubilee Line), I had lots of fun: physical games, data art installations, workshops, talks and conversations with those who shared the same concerns about internet health.
I had the pleasure of making acquaintance with Mozilla Fellows Sam Muirhead and Darius Kazemi, who both shared their insights into decentralised web with me.
It may be obvious to those savvy techno elites, but I did not know there are protocols other than http and https. Thanks to Sam Muirhead, I now have the Beaker Browser installed in my laptop and can access the dat protocol if I want to. I can also use patchwork to access a decent(ralised) secure gossip platform called ‘scuttlebutt‘.
Darius Kazemi wisely said in his lightning talk that ‘the decentralised web is becoming centralised’ and it’s worrying. Just because people don’t use decentralised social networking tools don’t mean that they are stupid. They may choose not to for various reasons. And decentralisation means more than just building yet-anther-Twitter to replace the current Twitter (or Facebook, you name it). It requires a change of mindset, a change of culture, a understanding of barriers.
Big organisations such as the BBC also engaged in this event, organising tech workshops for young people (e.g., the Micro:bit). For me, it’s particularly refreshing to learn about BBC CAPE, an initiative that aims to create a positive environment and to welcome neurodiversity at workplaces. Leena (@L1L_Hulk) and Sean from Project Cape (@S67Sean) gave a great workshop raising awareness of the importance of diverse talents and needs in the creative industry. You can learn more here.
The Mozilla Foundation has generously sponsored this first ever field trip for Roehampton’s BA (Hons) Digital Media programme. We received subsidized youth tickets and free educators tickets for our staff and students. There was a superb and free creche service on site. A big thank you to the Mozilla Foundation. We are looking forward to the MozFest 2019 already.