Carole Cadwalladr’s thoughts on our broken society

At the MyData 2019 conference in Helsinki. I had the absolute pleasure of talking with Carole Cadwalladr after seeing a panel discussion about the great hack and also taking part in a workshop about it.

I realised I had not actually shared her TED talk on my blog, and only shared the great hack via the July public service internet newsletter.

I can change that easily enough, and I want to share some of the workshop resources, but not totally sure they are for sharing…?

Move fast and break society?
Sander Van Der Waal’s slide from a later mydata session

In an unmissable talk, journalist Carole Cadwalladr digs into one of the most perplexing events in recent times: the UK’s super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters — and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election — Cadwalladr calls out the “gods of Silicon Valley” for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past?

Open rights are human rights

Wish I could have made ORGcon, but I was away again and haven’t been to a ORGcon for quite a few years now. Regardless I’m a supporter (you should be too) of the Open right group since they started many many moons ago.

Brexit: Stay or go and to where?

Flags of Europe

Facing no deal and the abuse of democracy which is happening in the UK. I’m rethinking again my plans for the future of living in the UK. I think its getting to that point when I need to think about cutting my losses?

It doesn’t seem on paper not too horrible but of course there’s a lot more to it than just the logistics…

After much thought, it seems these are the biggest things which are stopping me. Not to say family, friends, my partner, etc are not a big consideration.

Career progression

If the right company/public service organisation got in touch and offered me a position/career similar to my current role but in Europe. I would seriously think long and hard about it; then in this Brexit climate likely accept the offer. Its hard to say, as I love what I do for the BBC and there are great people I work with; but there is no way I can ignore whats happening in the wider country. I’m sure colleagues, management, etc would understand and wish me the best.

Language

I’m not totally sure why but languages don’t come easy to me. I have been to many places in the world, and each time I struggle to remember even the basic stuff (please, thank you, etc). I read there might be difficulty being dyslexic with learning languages. However I’ve never let it hold me back and in a Brexit climate, I believe its certainly worth the struggle/effort!

Looking across

… and where?

Where would I go is a little more fun to think about, but realistically the freedom of movement means I could be flexible… Ideally it would be somewhere with a lot of interest in technology but with a strong public ethos. Somewhere with its own strong creative sector and well thought out public transport system. It would be a place of eventfulness and cosmopolitan culture.

If I was pushed to name a few places, the cities in the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and even France? After visiting Antwerp, I have to say the second cities are quite attractive, just as Manchester is to London. (Yes I know Birmingham is the 2nd biggest but thats only one type of metric).

I was reminded that I have friends in many cities who could be extremely useful to ask practical questions and visit sometime.

Re:Creating Europe at the time of a dictatorship

One of the very best Manchester International Festival events I went to this year was Re:creating Europe by Ivo Van Hove.

I can’t even express the living nightmare the UK is being dragged into by a  calculated Boris Johnson. Its clear Europe isn’t perfect but in this 90min play, you get a real sense of how momentous the building of Europe was and hope for a better Europe. However (sadly) it will be a better Europe without the UK…

Don’t forget to sign the petition for Parliament not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.

Re:Creating Europe – MIF from De Balie on Vimeo.

What is Europe? Is it a continent or a culture, a bygone dream or a thriving reality – or all of the above? In a year when a deeply divided Britain is set to leave the EU, De Balie and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA) present the performance Re:Creating Europe in Manchester.

Community parks for the community of inner Manchester

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Cities are always in flux however, our values/needs as humans don’t flux so much. Green space is important to us, even a total city boy like myself loves green nature space at times. This is beyond gentrification and more about city planning. Something Jane Jacobs knows plenty about.

Its clear green spaces are essential and lets say Manchester like London doesn’t have a lot of them. There’s got to be a connections between the mental health epidemic and the state of our biggest cities.

There are 3 spaces in the very local area which have been marked for building of some kind of redevelopment.

  1. Former Central Retail Park Great Ancoats Street Manchester M4 6DJ
  2. Green space at New Islington tram stop
  3. Mayfield train depot park plans

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I joined the talk yesterday at Central Retail park

From friends of the earth Northern Quarter

Currently Manchester City Council plans to turn the old Central Retail Park on Great Ancoats Street into a 440 space carpark with the application going to planning on 22nd August, we have until 17th August to make our voice heard.

This is a 10.5 acre space, half the size of Whitworth Park.

There will around 1000 cars moving in and out onto already busy Great Ancoats Street. This will increase pollution including known carcinogens such as Nitrogen Dioxide, in a city of appalling childhood asthma rates and one which consistently ranks amongst the worst air quality in Europe.

This space is right next door to a Primary School.

This seems in total contradiction of Manchester’s campaign for clean air when Manchester City Council has declared a Climate Emergency.

Legally the land is owned by Manchester City Council making it public property, meaning you can walk on it. The fence around the old units is fenced off and there is a security which keep an eye on the space; but the advice from the talks was to build a park on top of whats there already.

Currently the plan is to use the space to show potential use. Events, guerrilla gardening, market, skateboard park, etc. I’ve already been thinking about a massive community bring your own BBQ type event – if I could sort out the toilets?

Anyway you can learn more at treesnotcars.com, and if you get a chance do drop in and see the space and the chalked ideas people have for it.

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Facebook cafe with free drinks and privacy check-ups?

https://twitter.com/wearesorryfor/status/1162346869017763853

When I saw Jasmine’s reply to Claires tweet. I thought exactly the same thing. Its the ethical dilemma cafe, only 5 years out too late.

Facebook is looking to take the initiative in the social media privacy debate by opening a network of pop-up cafes around the UK. Each will offer patrons free drinks and a privacy checkup, to help assuage consumer concerns about their privacy online.

Facebook Café will run from 28 August to 5 September in a bid to encourage Britons to get on top of their digital footprint, helped along by free-flowing caffeine.

One of these will be located within The Attendant on Great Eastern Street, London, in response to surveys indicating that 27% of Londoners have no idea how to personalise their social media privacy parameters.

Free coffee (what kind) and teas in exchange for? Privacy advice from Facebook, Wifi snooping like most, a honeypot, or maybe a bit of social engineering from FB staff (Scientology style)?

Is it worth it? I very much doubt it but it would be fun to mess with the FB cafe staff and systems. Don’t you think?

Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

A open space for public service and internet health

Last year BBC R&D worked with Mozilla on a event during London Mozilla fest week titled A open space for public service and internet health. The event was great and lots of conversations got taken into Mozfest on the weekend.

This year we are back with another event with even more partners and more topics of interest. Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

On Monday October 21st 2019 between 9am-5pm, At the RSA, John Adam St, London

The internet has enormous potential to be a force for public good, with many initiatives working to create an open, inclusive and trustworthy network. PublicSpaces.net and BBC Research and Development have worked together to organise this one day conference at MozFest House during Mozilla Foundation’s week-long open internet festival. It will explore ways in which we could make a new internet that strengthens the public domain and deliver public value online, in line with PublicSpaces commitment to providing a digital social platform that serves the common interest and does not seek profit.

Our topics for the day include

  • Public-Controlled Data (presented by BBC R&D)
  • Equal Access for Everyone (tba)
  • Healthy Digital Public Sphere (presented by Mozilla)
  • Public Service Networking  (presented by PublicSpaces.net)

 

Book a ticket or register your interest, before they disappear…

User permission opt in or out? Time for HDI!

3 mobiles optin privacy
Is grey opt in or opt out?

I’m one of those people who look at terms when using services or purchasing IOT devices. I also dont accept the cookie warnings unless I’m actually happy to use the service. This does make looking at any Oath/Yahoo site a pain for a while, as they use to have accept or nothing else (this changed).

Very sure a lot of the companies deliberately put up painful cookie notices to mislead their users. If this isn’t a dark pattern it should be?

Recently I noticed this cheeky one from the three mobile app. You can assume the sliders when grey are not active and the purple one on? But there’s no actual clear sign to say what is active/on and whats inactive/not. Its also interesting that the grey ones are the default, which you would assume are active/on in every other example you have experienced of this.

Another clear call for Human Data Interaction (HDI).

Maverick women and the Moon

Moon 50 Festival

Its finally came, the moon50festival to mark our relationship with the moon and the 50 years since we visited the moon for the very first time. I have been involved with the festival from a far and Livia added me as a digital advisor to the festival a while ago. Out of the whole host of different events was the big one, Maverick women and the moon, advertised as A night of talks and performances with a keynote by Margaret Atwood.

The journey for me and my partner to get there was quite trip, but we managed to get to Greenwich University about 5mins before the start.

It was packed full of people which was fantastic to see on a hot evening of a sold out event in London. The best way to describe the evening was eclectic with everything from comedy to opera. The programming was spot on and kept the energy up through-out the whole evening.

Moon 50 Festival

To start with was someone I had not seen in decades. Helen Lederer’s moon monologues: Menzies, Menopause and Mayhem.

She was very funny and was great starter for the evening to come. Along her comedy piece she touched on many subjects including gender diversity in the showbiz world and the effect of the lunar cycle on women.

Next was a talk about how Chinese culture think about the moon by Angela Chan and how does these works of science fiction persist in a global climate? Really interesting thought-provoking stuff.

Moon 50 Festival

This was followed by a screening of a short film called Moxn (pronounced Moon) and Q&A. A beautifully shot video exploring gender and ethnic diversity wrapped up in a poem. Something for the Encounters short film festival I certainly think.

There was a welcomed break giving us enough time to go get some proper hot food, as our trip from Manchester was pretty non-stop and didn’t include a sit down meal. Remembering Greenwich from over 10 years ago, we settled into Noodle time for a meal and discussion about the evening so far.

Moon 50 Festival

When we got back there was the main billing/keynote for the evening. Margaret Atwood on the Moon and Magic. The atmosphere was thick with anticipation and Margaret now in her golden years didn’t let disappoint. She was funny, poignant and just magical. It was a absolute pleasure sitting in the 2nd row watching her talk. She was fantastic and received a bit of standing clap at the end. There was a Q&A which followed afterwards but over stretched its time but in her answers, you could tell how super switched on Margaret was and how deeply she thought about the world. She reminded me of Janet Murray who wrote Hamlet on the Holodeck, who happened to see last year at ICIDS in Dublin.

Moon 50 Festival

After Margaret, some music in the form of a Opera to seal the amazing evening. The only shame was people leaving in between rather than staying for closing. But regardless the Opera finished the moon festival event off in fine style.

The event mainly run, created and hosting women was great and well worth travelling from Manchester for. So happy to see all the people at the event and if things work out as well with the other events, I expect next year there will be another moon festival regardless of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Excellent night and well worth attending and experiencing!

Massive thanks to the organisers and everyone behind this event and all the events under the Moon Festival. It was great!

Intersectionality and the real problem of diversity in silos

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Many companies still consider diversity policies solely in terms of dealing with separate categories of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic class, religion or disability. However, a better awareness of how these strands overlap — a concept known as intersectionality — can improve an organisation’s understanding of its staff.

FT

I can’t tell you how many times I have expressed this problem with traditional diversity to people. Most thing they are doing a great thing focusing on diversity, and I never want to stop that. However they miss the point of true diversity…

As the FT piece points out (found via Jonathan Ashong Lamptey)

Treating people as individuals is key to improving this perception, she says. Taking an intersectional view means recognising individuals can have multiple identities that overlap, for example an Asian LGBT woman or a white disabled man.

Looking at the law, the example which I would use to demonstrate the importance of intersectionality is Baylis-Flannery v. DeWilde.

In the case of the complainant, who alleged discrimination by her employer on the basis of sex and race, the Tribunal found that the discrimination she experienced was intersectional, and observed:

While the findings of discrimination made in this case are of sufficient gravity that Ms Baylis-Flannery could succeed on either enumerated ground of race or sex, or on both grounds, one set following the other, the law must acknowledge that she is not a woman who happens to be Black, or a Black person who happens to be female, but a Black woman. The danger in adopting a single ground approach to the analysis of this case is that it could be characterized as a sexual harassment matter that involved a Black complainant, thus negating the importance of the racial discrimination that she suffered as a Black woman. In terms of the impact on her psyche, the whole is more than the sum of the parts: the impact of these highly discriminatory acts on her personhood is serious. (2003 HRTO 28, para 145)

But as Jonathan points out lets look beyond legal discrimination, as its easy to see the problem. He uses a good example of himself to show how in certain contexts he has advantages and disadvantages.

…he says: “Being a 6ft 2 man has its advantages in the workplace but being black has disadvantages, at different times and different places.”

This also gets more tricky once you have a number of people who share similar categories. My example I always use is if you have a large number of white women from a middle class background, how does this effect the inclusion or culture of the business for other non-white or working class women? Outside the workplace I have no issue with women in tech initiatives, but I really do like what Sarah Lamb did with the Girl Geekdinners, which felt a lot more inclusive due to the 50% invited rule.

Its complex but thats the point, diversity and inclusion isn’t a thing you can throw magic dust/money at. Likewise training is good but its not something you think about away from base then come back and forget.

The way to build empathy, foster inclusiveness and create trust in the workplace, according to Mr Ashong Lamptey, is to discuss difficult topics in employee groups or staff networks that share a common identity. “Instead of guessing, ask the people who are having those experiences,” he says.

“Organisations should make this part of a long-term strategy,” Mr Ashong Lamptey says.

I have to say I especially like the idea of the reverse mentoring whereby managers are mentored by a minority staff member.

If only we could take a number of these practices and group them into something we could test and write up the studies of?

My quick short view on Libra cryptocurrency

Facebook Libra

  • Facebook is full of crap and this privacy first play is just total bull. I don’t trust facebook, but to be fair I don’t trust my bank, however there business model isn’t completely at odds with my freedom as a digital citizen.
  • Cryptocurrency for the masses is not such a bad thing but theres so little information I can just imagine the headlines about being taken for their life savings.
  • A single global currency is a very very bad idea for many reasons not worth going into now.
  • I know Facebook is only spearheading the libra Association which is a not-for-profit organization but its FACEBOOK Remember! I don’t even really think the others are in it for anything more than a punt.
  • Calibra the tools facebook have built to work with Libra do not subscribe to the same ideas as the association and that might not be a bad thing in your book but it clearly points towards the endless dominance of facebook in this association.

Don’t get zuckered into this all, againglad others have push back hard.

BBC’s role in data-led services

Public Service Internet

Two good blog posts outlining the BBC’s ambitions were posted to various BBC blogs on this week.

First Matthew Postgate (CTPO of the BBC) looks at the BBC’s future role in  a data-led landscape. He mentions the BBC box which then links to work we’ve been researching in BBC R&D around the databox project.

Gizmodo started to unpick this a little, The BBC is Doing Cloud Storage and Wants You to Have Full Control Over Your Data. The interest is a good thing of course…

It was clear to me back when I first spoke to Nottingham University about the databox project, it was something different, a possible way forward following the newly established HDI principles. It was tricky to understand (and you get that sense in the Gizmodo piece) but the box infrastructure kept everything honest. If you told me 4 years later after I first published the ethics of data videos.. I’d be debating with Tim Burners-Lee about the merits of Databox vs Solid at Mozfest 2018… I wouldn’t have believed you.

I look forward to seeing where things go next with Databox/BBC Box, this for me is the BBC embracing the change and doubling down on its public service. But lets not forget the other experiments using databox at their heart as they are also part of the change.

Flight shaming is taking off?

Flight shaming is taking off (nice pun), can travel be more ethical? Is something I read and think about quite a bit (the flying bit of course).

I’m guilty of flying a lot, for example a few months ago I flew to Amsterdam and back in the same day. Besides it being a bloody long day, I did spare a thought about my carbon mileage for the day. I did fly on one of those e propeller planes there and back, which I gather is better than a jet airplanes? But the flight shaming isn’t going away.

I think its a balance of understanding and conscious decisions. I agree with the writer of the guardian piece, that a family of 4 on a train to Spain isn’t at all practical and I personally can’t think of a better way to get there with kids. Yes going somewhere local is a nice idea but thats ignoring the cultural benefits of going to other countries.

Weirdly enough this came up in Re:publica, which I need to blog about fully. Johan Rockstorm’s talk was super sobering and someone asked him how it got to Berlin for the conference (maybe consciously or non-cons iosuly) flight shaming him.

He’s reply was good and balanced.

…so how can you get you know the world to transport itself in a sustainable way I think that the that the solutions is therefore not to go out and simply say stop flying I mean that that would be like the only message because I think that that just just creates a deeper rift between the aware environmental movement and everyone who just says oh no I’m not gonna I’m not gonna sacrifice that and therefore I rather put my head in the sand and and create my own little fake news story of something that will somehow make this not happen so therefore I think the solution for us to succeed to really have even the in does indifferent majority to surf along with us is to you know show that sustainability is the entry point for a better life that we can achieve better quality of life not just through by consuming and unnecessarily flying when we don’t need to yeah of course of course as in all forms of excessive consumption…

Familiar stranger and wellness

milgram familiar stranger

Theres been so many times in the past when I blogged about the breakdown of social bonds between strangers. One of my favourite books is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, I still need to read reclaiming conversations. The smartphone is a easy target to point at when thinking about this all.

The thing I hadn’t really considered is the effect of the mental ill/wellness epidemic maybe slightly caused by loneliness.

This is why I find things like Uber quiet ride pretty scary when you take the long view. Which of course Uber isn’t, as they try and make public transport redundant as its not convenient enough for our lives.

You can outsource pretty much every aspect of irritation in your lives. But you can’t outsource loneliness, or pain. Like a dystopian sci-fi plotline, we are allowing Silicon Valley to make our lives as convenient and seamless as possible.

But there’s an app for everything now, which means no more phone calls to the pizza shop, no chit-chat while waiting for the bus. The little white earbuds, and their more aggressive, noise-cancelling cousins, are shielding us from this terrible outside world.

And we are lonelier than ever. Our communities are disintegrating, whether it’s the corner store bought by a billionaire developer or churches being replaced by Instagram or the fact that I have never met or even seen my nextdoor neighbour. We are at a crisis point.

You could easily point the finger at Airbnb too, something which was about people sharing homes with strangers; now is about hotel like experiences. Airbnb haven’t helped things wither with their plus listings. Don’t get me wrong I understand, but airbnb originally was different.

I keep saying it but noticed I don’t think I have ever wrote about it so directly.

Public transport along with lots public services could be the decider between a epidemic of loneliness. I mean where else are you going to experience familiar stranger and that essential head nod. Rubbing shoulders with strangers clearly is good thing in the long run, you wonder why more people are flocking to our over crowded cities? I think there is something in the social object theory and I’m not the only one. Bonding with strangers builds friendships, builds neighbourhoods, building communities, which builds societies?

The data is still not 100% but I think this is essential research material.

Death of conversation

smartphone addiction illustrations cartoons with couple at cafe dinner

I found the piece with 57 Images Of How Smartphones Take Over Our Lives, a fun but also slightly tragic read.

Modern technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in many ways – from curing what used to be terminal illnesses to space explorations, we all must agree that life without technologies seems quite impossible now. Though the technologies make living more comfortable, they are also the culprit of many social issues, with smartphone addiction being the top one.

Its something I’ve written about in the past quite a bit… Smartphones are the new cigarettes, tips for deadling with your smartphones Tamagotchi where the future went wrong? and more…