Final conference, Amsterdam, 23 January 2018 – wrapping up a research journey into communications between SSH and ICT communities

The concluding conference of the CANDID project was held at The Waag (weigh house), a 15th-century building on Nieuwmarkt square in Amsterdam. Originally a city gate and part of the walls of Amsterdam, the building has in its long history also served as a guildhall, museum, fire station and anatomical theatre.

It was depicted in Rembrandt‘s 1632 painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, but these days it functions as another type of hack space, as the base for the Waag Society, a foundation that fosters experimentation with new technologies.

 

Welcome and introduction

Project coordinator Kjetil Rommetveit reported CANDID as complete, with all deliverables submitted and, where not awaiting publication in a science journal.

“The genesis of CANDID”, said Kjetil, “was a strategy meeting in Edinburgh early in 2016, following completion of the three year Epinet FP7 project involving the participation of several of the same researchers”.

Summing up Kjetil described the project as “…unusual in lasting just one year. What was achieved considering the abbreviated timeframe is staggering, which could only have been achieved by a team mostly ready to go and that already largely knew each other.”

The application deadline was just two months after the Edinburgh meeting, and, “as it turned out, the CANDID team had a nice dynamic and collaborated in a good way.”

“The fact that four WPs have papers in the process of being published, with some already accepted, is exceptional”.

“There was a lot of work done but we were fortunate in having such enthusiasm in the consortium.”

“The team was productive but, as we expected given the time-frame, left plenty of loose threads, which was part of the plan, and leaves plenty for other researchers to do what they want with it.”

“As a result, we now know much more about smart discourse. The headline output is the primer and policy content but the main results are in the three Modules and the Discourse Analysis WP.”

 

Module 1 – User and design configurations: main insights and future prospects

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Robin Wiliams, of The University of Edinburgh, described the debate about smart energy in the UK as “demonstrating very little thought about actual users and benefits for the consumer of smart meters apart from general promises of cheaper bills and the likelihood of a more differentiated market”.

For smart health the focus of attention appeared to be on developing new applications and services, while less attention is paid to important developments using data for intelligent targeting of prophylactic interventions.

Robin also noted a ‘perverse distribution’ where personal health and fitness devices are marketed to people already having relatively good access to resources and information to manage their health (ie the ‘worried well’), rather than to demographics with greatest potential needs.

 

 

Module 2: Risks, Rights and Engineering

Module 2 addressed developments in concepts of privacy and other fundamental rights and freedoms relating to smart ICT systems – including ‘Data Protection by Design and by Default’ as introduced by recent EU legislation.

The research representative for this work package outlined how concepts of privacy have been affected by ’transformational waves’, causing a metamorphosis “from an issue of societal power relationships to one of strictly defined legal rights, and from the civil and political to a matter of consumer rights”.

An emerging ‘techno-epistemic network of privacy engineering’ has led to such concepts of ‘Privacy Enhancing Technologies’, ‘Privacy by Design’ and ‘Data Protection by Design and by Default’, as solutions to policy and market concerns.

Module 2 researchers noted novel ‘articulations’ of privacy arising from the effects of ICT engineering:

  • ‘Privacy by architecture’ – with a strong technological orientation that builds on the Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) tradition.
  • ‘Privacy by policy’ – with an organisational orientation focused on the implementation of the rights of the user granted by data protection law.
  • ‘Privacy by interaction’ – with a social orientation aiming at technologically improving user agency.

A view apparent in ICT circles was that law is insufficiently fast-acting or effective enough to cope with the impacts of smart technologies, and that ‘privacy by network’ has become co-dependent on the sine qua non of ICT: interoperability.

“There is a tension”, it was claimed, “that results in technologies tending to be at least half-complete before users are involved, by which time issues of interoperability and efficiency usually are considered of greater significance.”

  • Module 2 – Scientific publication is not yet public at the time of writing awaiting publication in a Scientific Journal

 

Module 3 – Sensing Infrastructures: insights and prospects for research

maxigas

maxigas

maxigas said the Module 3 team, as is typical of science, technology and society (STS) scholars, proceeded to question technological determinism, and came up with a concept of ‘regimes’ of justification for implementing smart technology programmes (see CANDID Module 3 looks to reframe view of social scientists from party poopers to innovation pathfinders).

This module examined expressions such as ‘Internet-of-Things’, ‘Big Data’, ‘Cloud Computing’, ‘Smart City’, each intended to describe the digitalisation of environments and everyday life.

“However”, said maxigas, “these expressions aren’t innocuous descriptions of some kind of reality but are techno-social artefacts that play a fundamental role in fostering the adoption and marketability of innovation.”

Such vague buzzwords were suggested as designed to create ‘spaces of collaboration without consensus’; described as ‘empty spaces of encounter’, intended to for easy digestion and appeal for policymakers and investors.

The module asked questions such as what is a smart city and who is it for, and if there is any ambiguity about what European citizen is, exactly (a term commonly used to refer to the people that benefit).

The researchers invited innovators and scholars to reflect on the futures they are helping to imagine and create, and to ‘put the human back into the centre of the network, engage in discourses on power and unveil the material interests covered under the rhetoric of any easy technology fix’.

  • nb Module 3 – Scientific publication not public until publication in a Scientific Journal.

 

The Power of discourse: insights and prospects for research

Maria Xenitidou

Maria Xenitidou

Maria Xenitidou, University of Surrey, (for WP5) reported some assumptions commonly used to advance technologies, such as the imagination of the ability to access information as inevitably bringing about better lives for citizens.

These ‘citizens’ are, it was suggested, constructed as rational, calculative, responsive and responsible.

Examinations of texts and EU documentation found technologies ‘set centre-stage’ and ‘constructed as impersonal, and in the service and to the benefit of society’.

The power of discourse found technological constructs focused on technology ‘in the modern tradition, as the saviour to progress, with which individuals, groups, societies nowadays progress by way of empowerment, active participation and co-construction’. A closer look, however, revealed the citizen and society placed at the receiving end of progress, either accepting of new innovations or not progressing at all.

“Typically”, said Maria, “we see the benefits of innovation for society being assumed as a given.”

“For example, Internet of things (iOT) is constructed as having change potential; implied as being positive; but that people are mere participants.”

She added that sociologists can help engineers frame the issues, and pointed to how empowerment discourse masks redistribution of authority, noting “Individualising of authority is what is happening.”

 

Keynote lecture: Irina Shklovski, IT University of Copenhagen

Irina Shklovski

Irina Shklovski

Irina Shklovski, Associate Professor at the Copenhagen Institute of Innovation Design introduced the VIRTEU Horizon 2020 project on ethics practices of #IoT – for which she is Project Coordinator.

VIRT-EU stands for Values and ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe and is funded for four years from last January. It aims to analyse and map the ethical practices of European hardware and software entrepreneurs, makers and hacker spaces, and community innovators.

In anecdotal terms, she suggested that matters of ethics with respect to IoT might be represented by a quote from one developer interviewed who said, “ethics is like this big elephant in the room whenever IoT is discussed”.

The VIRTEU project intends to answer such questions as: ‘what ethics is about’, and ‘what is the benefit of getting it right’.

So far, Irina sees ethics as being about “negotiating the trade-offs”, and characterised her experience of interdisciplinary research in the project, and empathised with the CANDID researchers, said that “creating interdisciplinary research output is incredibly hard to do”.

 

The CANDID Primer and Template

The CANDID Primer was discussed, although it is currently in draft format.

In this document, the CANDID team proposes a reiterative and reflexive approach to the ‘innovation cycle’ and elaborates on the types of issues SSH scholars might, given the opportunity, typically raise as discussion points with innovators and engineers.

Everyone agreed, however, that the Primer is written by and for SSH scholars, as one participant commented: ”engineers would be flipping through the pages, looking for the instructions. They’re not trained to engage with textually rich material like that”.

The Primer points to common concerns among SSH scholars and proposes how SSH insights could be applied in the development of smart solutions that aim for responsible innovation. To get more attention from engineers, it was decided that an abbreviated version (7-8 pages) was necessary, that would convert the material presented in the Primer to a bullet list of key concerns, followed by direct questions for engineering teams to ask of themselves and reflect upon.

Update: an abbreviated version of the CANDID Primer, has since been made public and named CANDID Template

 

CANDID data sharing and visualisation of discursive analyses

David Rozas

David Rozas

David Rozas and Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir described a FLOSS tool (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) used for data representation as part of the CANDID Primer and Template.

The dataviz project is a development of a data-sharing facility and visualisation of textual analyses at Surrey. An instance of the tool was generated and adapted specifically as a research instrument for CANDID, to be appropriated for public representation and open sharing of CANDID data.

The presentation described the technology, structural features and functions for use as a research instrument, and discussed what visualisation and data sharing can afford.

CANDID data was uploaded from the communications in Module 2 (thematic analysis for content ordering) and the discourse-analysis of policy and policy-related discourse conducted as part of WP5 (led by Surrey), with Module 3 communications (pending). The data comprises excerpts from interviews, written communications, documents and other textual sources – each chosen and given preliminary treatment on the bases of the analytic approaches of these CANDID partners, and in contextualising their structuring by thematic areas and links to the discursive strategies at work in the communications the data represent.

Kristrún said the team is in the process uploading further data and structural connections, and is to be finished before the final report.

 

Continuing journey of research into communications between SSH and ICT communities

In conclusion, CANDID is not a finished product, but an ongoing journey of research into communications between SSH and the ICT-LEIT communities: clarifying the meeting points and strategies for improved communications between these communities.

Overall the consortium members expressed happiness with what had been achieved in such a short time and were planning to follow up this work in new research projects.

Some key outputs from CANDID are being revised and/or completed, including submissions to scientific journals, the Primer, the Template, and uploading data to dataviz for data sharing and visualisation of discursive analyses.

All these materials will be trickling in up until the end of February and the links updated accordingly on the Progress page.

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