Category Archives: data and society

Adjusting to the COVID-19 reality

Today starts the 3rd week of staggered isolation & social distancing measures imposed for addressing COVID-19, which also affected Universities and research teams. As other PIs around the world, I had to think how the ART/DATA/HEALTH project could adjust to the new reality of the COVID-19 crisis. The ART/DATA/HEALTH project aims to work with communities and citizens to build their digital and data science skills in order to understand large amounts of data – and the way we do this is through creativity and the arts. But plans to run workshops with the project’s key partners and stakeholders were cancelled, while the Brighton Fringe Festival has been postponed until October 2020.

Inevitably we have moved to an extended period of working remotely, in order to realise the vision of the project, which is to benefit communities digest health and wellbeing data through arts and creativity. I have commissioned three artists for the ART/DATA/HEALTH project and they have all now shifted their practice and focus in order to adjust and respond to the issues emerging from the COVID-19 everyday practices and materialities:

  1. The bio-artist, Anna Dumitriu, was initially commissioned to explore domestic violence issues in consultation with the local charity RISE. She has now shifted her focus to also take into account data on the effect of quarantine and self-isolation due to COVID-19 on women (RISE is a Sussex-based charity that supports people affected by domestic abuse and violence. RISE stands for Refuge, Information, Support and Education). Beyond the impact of COVID-19 related measures on women in general and the reported rise in cases of domestic abuse, my collaboration with RISE has aimed to give voice to the experiences of staff. The impact of isolation due to COVID-19 on the wellbeing of charity workers who support survivors of domestic abuse is hence a key research interest for my work in the ART/DATA/HEALTH project. To explore these experiences, feelings and emotions around social distancing and staying at home during this challenging time, Anna and I will be sending art kits to RISE staff, which they can use remotely.
  2. The local community artist Ian Leaver was initially commission to co-facilitate the workshop Staying Healthy in Whitehawk earlier this month, and to co-produce, with local residents, an mural at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. My collaboration with the Wellsbourne is aimed at understanding barriers to access the health services for citizens who live in an area of multiple deprivation. The workshops at the Whitehawk Library planned for earlier this month got cancelled, so Ian and I have been thinking of ways to continue the work, to connect with the community, and offer an opportunity to East Brighton residents to take part in an art project, while they record a daily diary. We are inviting people who live in East Brighton and belong in a sensitive group, or are in isolation  to engage in a creative project.

    The idea is simple: For 14 days or more, participants will track their symptoms, or other activity in relation to your health (for example medication, sleep, anxiety etc). You can use drawing, photo, audio, or write a brief blog to record your daily diary. Ian will then use these diary data to create an artwork that will be permanently exhibited at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. To explain how people can take part in the project we are offering the free online workshop, ART IN ISOLATION which will take place on Wednesday 8th April, 2-3pm. Ian Leaver-Blaxstone and I (Aristea Fotopoulou) will take you through the 14-day art challenge, and will discuss your ideas.

  3. Oddly enough, I originally commissioned VR artist Kate Genevieve to explore the emotional and embodied aspects of connection and isolation, before the COVID-19 crisis. Now her work is even more relevant. Although Kate was lucky enough to connect with workshop participants (staff from various local charity organisations) in real life, and in a physical space (at the Phoenix Art Space in February), she will also be sending out instructions for an arts and crafts activity to participants, as we are working with the loneliness and befriending charity Together Co.

 

For more updates about how the project is adjusting and responding to the new situation read the ART/DATA/HEALTH blog.

The-Ecology-of-Disease-Olaf-Hajek-Illustration

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A video recording of the talk “Understanding data power from a feminist perspective”, which I gave at the 3rd International DATA POWER Conference global in/securities, an be accessed here. (hosted by the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen in cooperation with the Universities of Carleton, Canada, and Sheffield, UK, 12-13 September 2019)

You can read the relevant chapter in Fotopoulou, A. (2019). Understanding citizen data practices from a feminist perspective: embodiment and the ethics of care. In Stephansen, H. and Trere, E. (eds) Citizen Media and Practice.Taylor & Francis/Routledge: Oxford. See Google Books here 

An updated written version will appear in my forthcoming book Fotopoulou, A. Forthcoming. Feminist Data Studies: big data, critique and social justice. SAGE Publications.

Paper abstract

This theoretical paper introduces how the notion of “care”, as developed in feminist science and technology studies (de la Bellacasa 2011), can be a productive analytical and critical approach when scrutinizing the manifestation of power relations in data practices. The matters of power and the politics of data have far reaching implications for the politics of the everyday. The paper argues that approaching such political issues in data practices as “matters of care” allows us to account for their affective, embodied and material elements, including the habitually devalued human labour of data users, activists, producers, consumers and citizens. Outlining the differences between justice (Dencik et al. 2016, Taylor 2017) and ethics approaches to data power, it is further shown that, guided by the question “Why do we care?”, the notion of care inserts particularity and empathy in social justice frameworks. The paper provides examples of areas of application of an approach to data power guided by feminist politics of care, alongside issues of data governance, regulating the data-driven economy and data privacy laws. In this way the paper maps a theoretical roadmap of feminist data studies and practice theory, which is focused on materiality and embodiment and is committed to unsettling the power relation of race, class, gender and ability in datafied worlds.

References

de la Bellacasa, M.P., 2011. Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social studies of science, 41(1), pp.85-106.

Dencik, L., Hintz, A. and Cable, J., 2016. Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism. Big Data & Society, 3(2), p.2053951716679678.

Taylor, L., 2017. What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society, 4(2), p.2053951717736335.

 

We Need to Talk About Robots: Gender, Datafication and AI

Talk at Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster

Date And Time

Thu, 21 November 2019, 17:00 – 19:00 GMT

Location

University of Westminster

309 Regent Street, Room: RS UG04

London W1B 2HW

View Map    

Book here 

 

Tangle of colorful electric wires and cablesThis talk reviews how the acceleration of data infrastructure development and growing adoption of data practices in everyday life are entwined with wider cultural discourses about gender and sexuality. Using artificial intelligence (AI) assistants and social robots such as Alexa and Siri as an example, it analyses these links from a feminist data studies perspective focusing on three key themes.

First, it discusses the production of gender in everyday data practices, approaching everyday interactions and the household as sites of datafication. While the household is an ideological site central in the consumption of innovative technologies and the reproduction of hierarchical gender and labour relations, contemporary data technologies introduce unique new sets of conditions.

Second, the talk examines normative inscriptions of femininity and masculinity in the design of AI technologies. Questioning binary thinking and the “black-boxing” of gender identity in data studies, it considers the role of queer subjectivity and experience in the production of scientific knowledge.

Finally, the talk reflects on recent reports of symbolic and physical violence inflicted by data, and the vulnerabilities that automation and datafication represent for women, people of colour, and marginalised communities. It examines such data harms and vulnerabilities in relation to dominant perceptions of AI assistants and robots as “social actors” to illustrate the cultural and social contradictions that the domestication of robots introduces. This way the talk reinstates central questions of power and social justice in relation to new and emerging data technologies.

Feminist approaches to data practices at Data Power Conference

Our panel “Feminist approaches to data practices” has been accepted at the 3rd International DATA POWER Conference global in/securities, hosted by the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen in cooperation with the Universities of Carleton (Canada) and Sheffield (UK), 12-13 September 2019.

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Here is the line-up of papers, in alphabetic order, and the panel rationale.

  • Lina Dencik: “Situating data (justice) in critical social theory”
  • Catherine D’Ignazio & Lauren Klein: “Data Feminism”
  • Aristea Fotopoulou: “Understanding data power from a feminist perspective: embodiment and the politics of care”
  • Stefania Milan: “What feminist theory of datafication emerges from contemporary data activism?”

PANEL RATIONALE

Data-based systems and technologies pose pressing issues in relation to social justice, and there is great need for focused and explicit critiques that addresses intersecting structural inequalities such as gender, race, ability and sexuality. Embarking from conceptualisations of data practice, this panel explores how feminist theoretical, methodological and praxis approaches can help us understand the structures of power and privilege is datafied worlds.

The programme will be announced soon.