Our first workshop was packed and the energy was really wonderful. Particular thanks to Lisa Haskell, Carlos Ronceros, and Ellie McHugh who put in so much to make the workshop such a success and thanks to everyone who came and made such exciting first steps to exploring what 'big data' really means to people.
What inspired Fossbox to develop these workshops was our experience of working with communities to develop a 'big data' approach to mapping wheelchair accessible routes for wheelchair users with OSM Smart. This raised a lot of people's concerns both around what might happen to their data and a particular sense of vulnerability for people with disabilities around location data. We also ran up against challenges in putting across exactly how it would work and exploring what the issues might be.
We work in research collaborations with universities and we're also encountering research concerns about a lack of ethical frameworks for big-data research design and applications. What's happening is that big data implementations are steaming way ahead of public understanding and civil engagement. We're moving towards a city run by machine-intelligence (really! not entirely science fiction any more . . . ) and this has some potentially scary implications for everything from urban regeneration to policing, jobs, traffic, safety, regulation - and many more areas of public concern. Another area where people are increasingly concerned is the amount of data being collected about individuals and how this data is being used. Women and LGBTQ are also groups which experience particularl vulnerabilities relating to social media and big data. We decided to start by exploring issues around gender and sexuality.
Difficulties abound in trying to engage public participation and discussion relating to these issues as the basic concepts can be tough to get your head around. An ever-increasing number of people care passionately about this - but how do you find out what's going on and understand the debate? Mozilla's UX research around privacy indicates that people are aware of and concerned about invasion of privacy but feel helpless to understand or intervene. We wanted to start experimenting on how we could use art and design to explore more accessible ways of talking about and engaging with 'big data', 'future cities' and 'internet of things' issues.
Our first workshop was designed to get across some basic concepts in big data, privacy, security and circumvention technologies to find a 'way in' to the debates. We used some visual techniques to get to grips with how 'big data' and 'machine learning' work and how we can take small, personal, actions to protect our most confidential or personal information and communications safe. We did a little bit of design work and some initial discussions and shared some audio-visual materials. You can download the presentation outlining our activities for the day here.
We were so happy with the level of enthusiasm and how everyone really dived in and had fun. This was an experimental 'taster' so we didn't have time to go through all the different aspects in any detail or to do the practical work to get everyone completely up to speed on using the tools through the course of a single day but I have been exchnging encrypted communications with several participants and the feedback on the Meetup group has been amazing! I was particularly touched by personal feedback on the day. I think this really has been an overall success in putting across the basic concepts and creating a space for more focused discussion at the next session. We gathered quite a bit of feedback on our illustrated design posters too.
The second session will be on 22 March at Furtherfield Commons again. I'm adding a link to the correct map on the Furtherfield website to the Meetup page in hopes that people won't get lost this time! This second workshop will feature two workshops exploring people's experiences of the socially performative space of social media and part II of the design workshop Lisa and I started at the first session. We're also lucky enough to have a performance by Les Hutchins of his electronic composition using Lightbeam data to create a sonic 'visualisation' of browser data and we'll talk about Adam Curtis' new work. More details on Meetup and we'll post a programme soon.
We're also reaching out and developing partnerships for a second run of workshops in June 2015 and we'll be posting more info soon here and on Meetup.