Teaching Infrastructures Breaching through Data journalism and Data Activism

Conference of the European Association of Studies of Science and Technology, 25-28 July, Lancaster UK

Far from being neutral, data generate political effects at every stage of their production, cleaning, analysis and presentation. Such effects are sometimes manifest, for example in the use of demographic statistics for the justification of public governance, and sometimes, subtler for example in the way we classify knowledge in our libraries.

While the bias of the data is easy to proclaim, it is more difficult to observe and even more to teach. Information systems hide their political attachments, not necessarily maliciously, but simply because such opacity makes them more efficient in their tasks of knowledge management. It would be impossible to search a piece of information on the Web if, every time, we had to discuss Google’s business model or to wonder why its algorithms privilege some results. Yet, data infrastructures have fundamentals political consequences that must be part of any curriculum related to digital technologies.

Data activism arises precisely from the desire to expose the power asymmetries inherent to information systems. It seeks to promote access to data; to investigate the conditions of their production; to explain the constraints they generate; to propose alternative ways of redistributing their social consequences. Precisely because it raises awareness about the political dimension of digital technologies, the practice of data activism can be beneficial to make students sensitive to the effects of the sociotechnical infrastructures.

In this contribution we discuss the benefits and the difficulties of teaching data activism and data journalism drawing on the experience of a course at ENS Lyon France and at King’s College London.

Download the slides of the presentation

Data Activism course @ ENS Lyon

This course I have taught, with Axel Meunier, at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon intends to train students in the politics of information through a data activism project – the actual intervention in a public debate through the mobilization of digital data and the collaboration with the actors engaged in this field

Far from being neutral, the data generate political effects at every stage of their production, cleaning, analysis and presentation. But while the bias of the data is easy to proclaim, it is more difficult to observe. Information systems hide their political attachments, not necessarily maliciously, but simply because this allows them to be more efficient in their tasks of knowledge and coordination. It would be impossible to search a page on the Web if we had to discuss every time the business model of Google or wonder why his algorithms privilege some results rather than others. Yet, data infrastructures have the fundamentals political consequences that digital scholars cannot ignore.

Data activism arises precisely from the desire to expose (and if possible re-balance) the power asymmetries inherent to information systems. It seeks to promote access to data; to investigate the conditions of their production; to explain the constraints they generate; propose alternative ways of redistributing their social consequences.

See the official website of the course

See the online log of our work

A Data Journalism Hackathon at King’s College London

djsprint_small

On the 2nd of December, 2016, in collaboration with Open Knowledge International and the EU project SoBigData, the students of my Data Journalism Course (KCL Data Journalism Course) at King’s College, will have the chance to participate to a one-day hands-on data journalism workshop.

During the workshop, they will work with data experts, journalists and activists from various civil society organisations to collect, analyse and visualise data on international taxation (taxjustice.net); clinical trials (opentrials.net); human rights violations (decoders.amnesty.org); natural resources extraction (resourcegovernance.org)

Read more about the event

Data Journalism at King’s College

DataJournalism

The syllabus of the Data Journalism course that I am teaching with Liliana Bounegru at King’s College London

Download the syllabus

Ocean Fertilisation Controversy

OceanFertilisation

The best controversy atlas in my 2013/14 Controversy Mapping course. It presents the debate around Ocean Iron Fertilisation as a citizen conference:

See the atlas

The ‘recovered memories’ controversy

FalseMemories

One of the best video of my students in the Controversy Mapping Course in 2014 (in French however).

Watch the video

The nk603 maize controversy

MaisSeralini

One of the best video of my students in the Controversy Mapping Course in 2014 (in French however).

Watch the video

Cartografia de Controversias

Controversias

A week-long intensive course in controversy mapping that I gave at the Medialab of the Universitade Federale de Rio de Janeiro

See the video of the introductory conference

ASP The Construction of Innovation Networks

ASP

In 2012 and 2013, I have been responsible for organizing the module on Innovation Networks at the the Alta Scuola Politecnica gathering the 150 best students of the Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino. In a week-long intensive workshop, the students learn about Science and Technology Studies and Digital Methods perform the analysis of an innovation network.

See one of the lessons that I have given at ASP

Course of Data Journalism

data_journalism

In collaboration with the data journalist Nicolas Kayser-Brill, I have organize one week intensive course of data journalism for the students of the Ecole de Journalisme de Sciences Po.

See the works of my students

Controversies Design

ControversyDesign

Since 2010, I have been teaching Controversy Mapping and Science and Technology Studies (25h course) in the design workshop of Density Design at the University of the Politecnico of Milano.

See the webpage of the course in 2010, 2011, 2012
See the videos produced by the students

Controversy Mapping

ControversyArchive

Among other things, at Sciences Po I am responsible for coordinating and teaching the courses of Controversy Mapping. Controversy Mapping has been invented by Bruno Latour some twenty years ago as as a method to train students in the observation and description of sociotechnical debates. Since then, the method has evolved considerably and has been implemented by several universities all around the World (Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Manchester, Amsterdam, Liège, Lausanne, Padova, Trento, Buenos Aires…).

See the archive of the best work of the students of the course

Degrowth Controversy


One of the best websites realized in 2011 by the students of my Controversy Mapping course.

Click here to see the website.

Global Licence Controversy


One of the best websites realized in 2011 by the students of my Controversy Mapping course.

Click here to see the website.