Visit to the V&A: Digital Design Weekend September 20&21

logoOn September 20 and 21st we were very excited to participate at the V&A as part of their Digital Design Weekend. This was an exciting free event of collaborative making and activities that explored the physicality and digital value, and was meant to coincide with the London Design Festival. Throughout the day we were able to profile what we have done so far on our grant. We spoke at length about the series of interviews we have already with our YRS co-researchers, highlighting some of the important contributions they have made towards conceptualizing what privacy within our current historical moment.

We were also able to show off MobileMiner, the app that we have been developing, which is helping us learn about the kinds of data that are made available by our smartphones and apps we engage with. One of the preliminary findings that many people found interesting was that some games that are played by our YRSers appear to be generating quite a bit more data then others. We are still investigating what this means but there appears to be some indication that there are clear differences between the amount and kinds of data that apps take from users. Our next steps will be to organise, analyse and visualize the big social data we have gathered. We will do this in relation to the media diaries that our co-researchers from YRS have been keeping, allowing for a point of comparison between how they think they are using their devices and what their devices are actually gathering.

Many thanks go out to Andrew Prescott, who invited us to attend the event. It was a great experience to be among so many innovative AHRC Digital Transformations projects!

Our First Successful Hackathon!

On June 21st, we held our first hackathon with 13 of our research participants from  Young Rewired State.  Everyone was quick to form their groups and worked hard for the entire day at King’s College London.  There were many frustrations throughout the day, however, slowly progress was made! Some of our research participants took on the role of teacher, showing other fellow participants how to code with certain programing languages.  Some of the participants began their research on privacy agreements for the first time and were shocked to find out how little they actually had.  For this reason, some of the hacks produced platforms and apps that helped to visualize and understand the number of third parties that are attached to every website and app that get downloaded on smartphones.  Other participants were fascinated by the size of the digital footprints that get left behind when they engage with big social data so they made a Twitter account that posts photos and data automatically from their phone. Finally, some of our other participants tried to improve the MobileMiner app that we have produced.

If you would like to learn more about what we have done, click here to view the projects!  Or click here to see the archive of tweets that were produced throughout the day!

A Conversation about Big Social Data

A recent presentation we did for the Rothschild Foundation focused on some of the fundamental qualities of big social data and working through the vast amount of cultural artefacts that are born and remain digital.  To consider the digitization of cultural practices, we discussed the growing centrality and ubiquity of smartphone devices, particularly amongst young people.  Here, in part, we considered some of the more recent statistics on the increased usage of mobile phones and how these devices are enabling more and more of our cultural practices to be seamlessly integrated online.  We also unpacked some of the inherent contradictions found in how we value and want to protect the data that we both intentionally and unintentionally generate. Given the parameters for the capture of our social data are rooted in privacy agreements, we looked at two of these policies–Instagram and Sunrise Calendar.  Our intention was to critically examine and unpack the term ‘third party’ and finally to illustrate some of the assumptions that are often made when it comes to the protection of the data we produce online.  Click here for a link to this discussion.

On attending “Big Data and Security in Europe Challenges and Opportunities”

On Tuesday, January 21st 2014 we attended the conference: “Big Data and Security in Europe Challenges and Opportunities” in Brussels, organised by Professor Louise Amoore and Dr. Volha Piotukh of Durham University.   The discussions that took place focused mainly on the unique challenges and opportunities that big data represents for Europeans.  Some of the key questions that were asked included: i) Can data on ordinary daily transactions reveal nascent security threats? ii) What role, if any, can ‘big data’ and ‘big data analytics’ play in securing Europe and Europeans? iii) What are the implications of the reliance on new forms of data analysis within the security domain? While our research does not focus specifically on issues relating to security, it is still important to think through those ‘implications’ that are evoked whenever a discussion around big data arise. If there is anything that Edward Snowden has taught us, it is that innovation in data analytics has spread far beyond the State into the very fabric of networked communicative practices.  For the young people that we will be working with, how will such transformations in the way social data are accumulated and rendered usable effect how they conceptualise their own privacy? Is data surveillance becoming normalised? Or, have all of these recent revelations had a politicising effect, reinforcing the need now more then ever for the ‘Right to be Forgotten’?