Behind the scenes

News and views

We are working on a project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to help them understand the ecosystem around their work to develop an insight infrastructure for social and economic inequalities, and how to engage with it.

One of the things that’s been a bit challenging to pin down is how to think about what an “insight infrastructure” actually is or does. Is it just a fancy name for what’s essentially a data portal? Or the long term development of system-wide change? Is it intended to be a set of services that JRF will provide? Or a shared movement they’re building? I’ve been drawing on previous work to provide a couple of ways of thinking about what insight and insight infrastructures actually are.

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Beset by train strikes and snow, a small group of us gathered this week in London for a Connected Conversation session with Professor Shoshana Zuboff, author of the 2019 book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’, and a new paper titled ‘Surveillance Capitalism or Democracy? The Death Match of Institutional Orders and the Politics of Knowledge in Our Information Civilization’. Our discussion was framed by questions of strategy: what are the most promising avenues to encourage a rethinking of how data is governed, and how different strategies of organisations and movements fit together (or not)?

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We held the first in our Connected Conversations series earlier this month, bringing together a number of data governance thinkers, practitioners and campaigners from four continents to explore current contours of data and AI regulation around the world.

In our hour-long discussion we just scratched the surface of the different opportunities and challenges present when it comes to putting communities at the heart of data governance, and we’re confident that there is value in continuing and deepening the conversation, particularly with a focus on the narratives and agendas around data at play in the G7 and G20 over the coming years.

Put briefly, contributions pointed to both opportunities to innovate and build models of collective data governance within existing and nascent legal frameworks, and to the need to critically engage with advancing data policy agendas to make sure they don’t narrow, undermine or sideline the space for data governance that takes account of community impacts and democratic voice.

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This post was originally written to follow up a workshop of the Data Trusts Initiative, and is cross-posted from the Data Trusts Initiative blog.

How can the individuals and communities affected by decisions about data be more engaged in shaping and making those decisions?

New institutions of data governance, such as data co-operatives and data trusts provide an important framework for enabling data stewardship to be better aligned with community or public interest (by contrast, for example, to corporate structures oriented towards prioritising shareholder interests). However, even with trusts or co-ops, for interest alignment to actually take place, there is a need for ongoing and in-depth participatory practice.

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Weeknotes are a combination of updates and personal reflection written on a routine basis

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