My Data: Public spaces / Private data

Mydata 2019 conference card

I’m back at Mydata this year, this time with more colleagues, Publicspaces.net and the Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

If you are at Mydata, our event is in Hall H from 14:00 – 15:45 on the opening day of Wednesday 25th September.

More and more people live their lives online, and we are encouraged to view the internet as a public space. However the personal data we bring to this space can be used in many inappropriate ways: Instagram stories are scraped to target advertisement; faces in family photographs are used to train the ML systems that will scan crowds for suspects; the devices we thought we owned end up owning us; and our browsing histories are stored and scanned by governments and private companies. This creates a tension for public service organisations as they try to deliver value to audiences and users online.

In this session experts from the BBC Research & Development, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, and PublicSpaces will consider how to resolve these tensions, and look at some specific interventions aimed at providing value to audiences and communities through the responsible use of private data in online public spaces.

The format will be four brief talks and a round table discussion.

Chair: Rhianne Jones (BBC)
PublicSpaces and an internet for the common good: Sander van der Waal (PublicSpaces)
The Living Room of the Future:  Ian Forrester (BBC)
How public service media can engage online; Aleksi Rossi (YLE)
Data Stewardship and the BBC Box:  Jasmine Cox/ Max Leonard (BBC)

If this interests you, don’t forget to add yourself to the London event with a similar name. Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

BBC R&D: We do things differently!

We do things differently at BBC Research & Development. We’re curious and bold with a collective passion for making positive change. We’re inclusive and diverse – as well as collaborative and open by nature.

Quite a different view on the place I work daily, BBC R&D. Vicky did a amazing job creating a fresh and challenging video. You can see why the last post about Brexit is a difficult one to write/imagine

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.

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…

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.

What do the general public think about the internet?

https://vimeo.com/331179758

We (BBC R&D) helped NESTA to explore what the general public think about the internet. It was during a bitterly cold day but me, Rhia and Vicky took to the streets of Manchester to ask the public in a series of vox-pox interviews.

The results surprised me, as it was clear most were concerned and have serious but diverse reasons. Some gave short and some in-depth detailed experiences. The video only scratches the surface.

Over the past few decades, the internet has become the most important infrastructure of our time, radically rewiring how our societies work and how we interact. We asked the BBC to find out how ordinary people feel about these changes – watch their varied answers in the video below.

The video is a small part of NESTA’s Visions for the future internet work.

In March 2019, the World Wide Web turned thirty, and October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the internet itself. These anniversaries offer us an important opportunity to reflect on the internet’s history, but also a chance to ponder its future.

Massive thanks to the people of Manchester who answered our questions even with the weather at close to zero degrees!

The race pay gap deserves the same attention as the gender pay gap

I wanted to annotate the original Pearn Kandola article with some links…

In 2018, the gender pay gap took up a lot of column inches. Whether it be large businesses having to publicly declare their pay discrepancies, or well-known figures like Jodie Whittaker confirming that she’ll receive the same pay for her role as Doctor Who as her male predecessors, the pressure has been rising and change seems to have begun.

But gender is not the only cause of pay discrepancy; there’s another pay gap just as damaging that hasn’t received anywhere near as much media attention

There’s a long history of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people being paid less than their white colleagues. Analyses of pay by race have been carried out in many countries, and the similarity of the results is striking. Generally speaking, in every walk of life, in every craft and profession, minorities are consistently paid less than white people.

In November 2017, the BBC found itself at the centre of a significant gender pay gap scandal. Whilst its race pay gap was just as, if not more, prevalent, far less attention was given to it. The average white male earned:

  • four and a half times more than the highest earning white female
  • seven and a half times more than the highest paid minority male
  • nine times more than the highest paid minority female

The BBC is by no means a lone example, though. Independent Television News (ITN) IN 2018 revealed mean ethnicity pay gap of 16% which rose to 66% for bonus payments

The lack of attention given to the race pay gap is highlighted when one looks at organisations’ responses to dealing with it. Global professional services firm, PwC, also revealed a pay gap of 13% between its BAME and white staff. This gap is almost as substantial as the firm’s gender pay gap of 14%.

Its sad and sobering to read and hear. Why it wasn’t picked up by the mainstream press is a whole different question. Like I seen elsewhere, its much easier to focus on diversity in the form of binary male & female. But the honest truth is diversity is never that binary.

Reporting and transparency around the BAME pay gap is the best way to making this all viable.

The pay gap is a symptom of a wider culture in which black and ethnic minority workers are undervalued and underpromoted.

We need a PBS for the Internet age

PBS - Public Broadcasting Service Logo

Its quite amazing to read this opinion piece in the Washington Post recently… (if you like me are reading it in Europe, you might want to try this one)

Some bits I found amazing to read, especially since the united states’s public broadcast networks are so crippled. This says it all..

Americans like public media. NPR still consistently ranks among the most trusted news sources. Likewise, Americans have rated PBS among the most trusted institutions in the United States for the past decade and a half, according to polls conducted on PBS’s behalf. But these services operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Government cuts have forced public media to become far more dependent on listener contributions, sponsorships and private donors. These organizations have had to chase audiences migrating to private platforms along with the rest of the media, meeting audiences “where they’re at.”

To their credit, public media have made an impressive effort to upgrade on a dime. PBS states that its Digital Studios division averaged more than 38 million views per month on YouTube. NPR recently co-published a report about the promise of smart-speaker devices such as Amazon Echo for audience growth.

Rather than let public broadcasters who have accrued so much public trust languish — or, worse, be co-opted by a tech industry that has a vast interest in how its portrayed — both our federal and state governments need to play a more active role in public media’s health and digital future.

What the Internet needs is a fresh infusion of public media, properly funded and paired with federal policy that puts the public interest first.

Reading this piece, further reminds me why the public service internet research work is so critical. Without public media, we are lost. Can’t even really imagine what it must be like working for PBS and NPR consistently being knocked and sliced down. I mean the BBC has troubles but not like these (yet).

Re-decentralising the internet recording at Futurefest

Futurefest 2018 panel

I had the pleasure of being on the panel of re-decentralising internet at Futurefest, last summer. (when England was still in the world cup and the weather was super warm) Feels like so long ago. I’m quite glad its audio only because I was sat in the sunshine sweating a lot!

The internet isn’t where we want it to be. With power increasingly centralised in the hands of very few players, citizens have little say in where we want the internet to go next. But challenging existing dynamics won’t be easy: we find ourselves caught in the crossfire between the dominant American models (driven by Big Tech) and the increasingly powerful Chinese model (where government reigns supreme). Is there scope to create a third, European model, where citizens and communities are in charge?

In this session, we discuss alternative trust models for the internet. This session is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative. We will hear from Manon den Dunnen, strategic specialist at the Dutch National Police, Ian Forrester, Chief Firestarter at BBC R&D and Marta Arniani, innovation strategist and founder of Futuribile / Curating Futures. Chairing will be Katja Bego, senior researcher at Nesta and coordinator of the Next Generation Internet Engineroom project.

Thanks Katja!

The horizon dating experiment on TV again…

Horizon dating

It was Valentines day a little while ago and while I was busy. I guess someone at the BBC thought it would be a good idea to put up the Horizon Dating Experiment again.

I got a whole bunch of people asking me if they saw me on TV recently… Well yes you did and there is a story worth reading behind it all. I’m not the only one who blogged about it too. To be fair it all started with Rachel Clarke who pointed it out the call to me after my bad experience with the Year of making love.

Horizon dating experiment

To be fair although its back on Telly again, the best example of where the Horizon dating experiment popped up has to be on a plane at 36000 feet. Found via my good friend Claire

Back of a airplane seat

 

27-28th Feb is Manchester’s first Storytellers United Hackjam

storytellers united hackjamOn the Wednesday 27th – Thursday 28th February in Manchester’s first Storytellers United Hackjam.

The hackjam is run with support from BBC R&D and BBC Academy, MMU’s School of Digital Arts (SODA), Storytellers United, Popathon, University of York’s Digital Creativity labs and Creative England.

Its a 36 hours hackathon around responsive/perceptive/adaptive media experiences. Participants work as a team to brainstorm ideas, create prototypes of their own storytelling experiences. They will compete against the clock, not against each other sharing knowledge and expertise as they go. They won’t be alone, as they will have some excellent mentored by industry experts sharing their knowledge and experiences. Its all part of BBC Academy’s Manchester Digital Cities week.

The hackjam is only part the story. On the late afternoon of Thursday 28th Feb there will be a mini-conference titled Storytelling in the Internet Age. Where promising prototypes will be demoed to the audience.

Collaborating together

Ideal participants are from the creative sectors such as,

  • Freelancers, Sole-traders and SMEs working in new media fields combining data with media,, may have tried twine, eko, inkle, etc
  • Producers and Directors interested in adaptive and non-linear narratives, may have tried twine, eko, inkle, etc
  • Developers and Designers with an interest in audio & video combined with data and used javascript libs like the VideoContext.js, Seriously.js, etc
  • Students and Academics with a deep interest in object based media, adaptive narratives, interactive digital narrative
  • Artists exploring mixed media and non-linear narratives

Tickets are free but an expression of interest, with no guarantee entry.

See you there!

Lets meet Ian Forrester

For a while I’ve been thinking maybe I should have a Wikipedia page, not because I’m some kind of celeb but rather to capture all the different things which have been mentioned or interviewed. However I know this is a very bad idea. So I’m trying to keep a log of them in standard notes and maybe add them to my aboutme page. Currently it feels like I’m writing the history of me (or even the story of me).

Anyhow, its interesting to write and read over. I’m trying to be objective and use the wikipedia rules for verified sources. Theres some key points including my brush with death, the inclusive board top 100,  but also some more fun parts like the recent blog from the BBC GEL team, lets meet Ian Forrester.

In this instalment we speak to Ian Forrester, Senior Producer (and ‘Firestarter’) at BBC R&D. Ian recently made the Inclusive Board’s top 100 list of most influential Black, Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in UK tech. He talks about his journey to the BBC, memories of epic food fights and his interest in empowering the citizen.

I know everyone has a story/book in them, but I certainly think mine will make a interesting reading.

Bloody Mountstevens! I really hated that job, but loved going to replay records to spend my hard earned money on vinyl.

Another busy month or so

Its going to be another busy month or so…

Tomorrow we start to Build a healthy public service internet in the first forum during Mozfest weekend. This will be further explored at Mozfest in the decentralised space on Saturday afternoon.

Not long afterwards I’ll be going to Skopje along the same lines as last year when I was in Sarajevo. This time we have the results of last years workshop, the living room of the future.

Then Berlin for Most wanted music with a adaptive narrative conference talk more focused on audio than video and our first perceptive podcasting workshop. Now this exciting but scary as its completely beta and being developed right now.

I’m back in Berlin not long afterwards for a look at object based media and how machine learning can work together for the future of storytelling, quite similar to TOA 17 but more exploring and more I can talk about now compared to then.

Finally wrapping up with a critical panel discussion titled New platforms, new ways of storytelling at the future of the book in London. I expect a few things I said at Oreilly’s Tools of Change in 2012 are still very relevant. But also Perceptive podcasting will be much more mature by then.

All exciting but quite a bit in one go…

If you have no control over your identity you are but a slave?

How self sovereign identity could work

Its twice I heard something similar to this now.

First time was from Gregor Žavcer at MyData 2018 in Helsinki. I remember when he started saying if you have no control over your identity you are but a slave (power-phased of course). There was a bit of awe from the audience, including myself. Now to be fair he justified everything he said but I didn’t make note of the references he made, as he was moving quite quickly. I did note down something about no autonomy is data without self.

Then today at the BBC Blueroom AI Society & the Media event, I heard Konstantinos Karachalios say something very similar. To be fair I was unsure of the whole analogy when I first heard it but there seems to be some solid grounding for this all.

This is why the very solution of a self sovereign identity (SSI) as proposed by Kaliya Young and others during Mydata speaks volume to us all deep down. The videos, notes from that session are not up yet but I gather it was all recorded and will be up soon. However I found her slides from when she talked at the decentralized web summit.

This looks incredible as we shift closer to the Dweb (I’m thinking there was web 1.0, then web 2.0 and now Dweb, as web 3.0/semantic web didn’t quite take root). There are many questions including service/application support and the difficulty of getting one. This certainly where I agree with Aral about the design of this all, the advantages could be so great but if it takes extremely good technical knowledge to get one, then its going to be stuck on the ground for a long time, regardless of the critical advantages.

I was reminded of the sad tale of what happened to Open ID, really hoping this doesn’t go the same way.

British Digital Corporation? Radical thoughts?

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

You might have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently (there are many reasons) but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have a ton of things to blog.

One such thing is Jeremy Corbyn’s 2018 Alternative MacTaggart Lecture or rather his big, bold, radical thinking on the future of our media.

Big and bold maybe, radical? I’m less convinced but the interesting part is section 4, where he outlines plans for a British Digital Corporation.

The final idea I’d to share with you today, which I hope will generate some new thinking, is about how we, as a public and the media, as an industry take advantage of new technology.

I want us to be as ambitious as possible. The public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch as a few mega tech corporations hoover up digital rights, assets and ultimately our money. This technology doesn’t have an inbuilt bias towards the few. Government is standing by and letting the few take advantage of the many using technology.

So, one of the more ambitious ideas I’ve heard is to set up a publicly owned British Digital Corporation as a sister organisation to the BBC. The idea was floated by James Harding, former BBC Director of Home News in the Hugh Cudlipp lecture earlier this year.

A BDC could use all of our best minds, the latest technology and our existing public assets not only to deliver information and entertainment to rival Netflix and Amazon but also to harness data for the public good.

A BDC could develop new technology for online decision making and audience-led commissioning of programmes and even a public social media platform with real privacy and public control over the data that is making Facebook and others so rich.

The BDC could work with other institutions that the next Labour government will set up like our National Investment Bank, National Transformation Fund, Strategic Investment Board, Regional Development Banks and our public utilities to create new ways for public engagement, oversight and control of key levers of our economy.

It could become the access point for public knowledge, information and content currently held in the BBC archives, the British Library and the British Museum. Imagine an expanded Iplayer giving universal access to licence fee payers for a product that could rival Netflix and Amazon. It would probably sell pretty well overseas as well.

I find this interesting mainly because I still think the BBC is still best placed to do this, rather than set up a new corporation. If I didn’t think this was still true I’d be rethinking what I’m doing at the BBC.

The thing I do think could work is a collaboration between different existing companies/institutes/organisations to a make something like Corbyn is talking about.

Now that would be radical…?