Joining Connected BY Data
I joined the CONNECTED BY DATA team just over 2 weeks ago, and in that time I’ve adapted to working in a fully remote team, learned how to use LimeSurvey and attended an event at Parliament!
In joining the team, I have had the opportunity to widen my perspective and knowledge of data governance and ethical considerations of data. My experience with data was more on the ‘technical’ side, as I was taught data analysis and quantitative research methods during my undergraduate degree with no context given to how the data was collected, used and shared.
So, whilst I had previously had an interest in ethics and how it related to data, it did take some time to wrap my head around the idea of collective data governance and the collective impacts that data-driven decisions can have. I found it really interesting to see how Connected by Data’s advocating for community voices in data-led decision-making is more than just representation but is exploring ways that communities can be actively involved in making meaningful choices about their data or how data can be used to impact them. It also shifts the conversation from the typical discussion around risks to the individual to discussing the risks that data governance can have on communities.
It is seemingly obvious that such decisions can impact communities at the collective level but as risks around data are often communicated in individual terms, it was a bit of a challenge to condition my mind to think in that way. However, there were always different articles being shared on Discord that have been really helpful!
I just read an article by the Ada Lovelace Institute on ‘The case for collective action against the harms of data-driven technologies’ which presents a very clear understanding of what it means for data to cause collective harms and how this understanding can be lost due to the difficulties of translating collective harms into law. It also provides examples of these collective harms and provides guidance on how collective action can be used to reduce such harms.
My first task at Connected by Data has been working with Tim and Jeni on a project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to do some ecosystem mapping for a new insight infrastructure they are developing to provide better access to data insights for those who work in the poverty reduction space. This was all quite new to me, so I did have to do some research on ecosystem mapping and learned that it was largely a method to display streams of information and how this information is exchanged within an ‘ecosystem’.
We then began to compile a list of organisations that would be part of this ecosystem and have started developing a survey to understand what organisations working in the ‘poverty space’ would actually need from the insights infrastructure. Developing the survey included a bit more learning on my part, as I tested out different survey platforms - eventually landing on LimeSurvey, which I hadn’t actually used before. It was quite a fun platform to get to grips with, as it has a lot of options for personalising the survey exactly to your needs. So although it was more complicated than other survey platforms, it also allowed me to make a more complex and detailed survey that would be better suited to our aims.
Another exciting event that happened in my first week at CONNECTED BY DATA was going to Parliament for their Data Protection and Digital Information Bill Event. A lot of different topics were discussed including a very insightful discussion of ‘Data in Schools’ which talked about data governance in the context of children using technology for educational purposes. This provided a completely new perspective on unethical data collection, as I had never previously considered data protection from that viewpoint. In my experiences with ‘EdTech’ it was always viewed as a positive innovation in technology, that helped to promote alternative methods for learning without any care taken to critically think about potential byproducts of our untethered use of these technologies. The speakers clearly outlined the key areas of concern and how schools and teachers are often put into an awkward position in attempts to educate students whilst promoting safety online.
We’ll be posting a full, more detailed write-up of the Parliament event soon, so look out for that!