Some end-of-the-year reflections from a very interesting year.
Lots of learning
Looking back, seeing how things happen in life is always interesting. I’ve been working with data protection in Brasil since 2016, engaging with the 10-year legislative process that created the country’s general data protection law and even some GDPR compliance in the private sector. Nonetheless, as someone who has been fascinated with democratic theory and participation since my first year in college, I was always bothered by how data conversations were being carried out through an individualist lens with little community participation. In 2019, I had the opportunity to start wrapping my head around these concerns, in a still very explorative manner at the time, in a paper that, interestingly enough, got quite an attention and sparked conversations around participation and inclusion in data governance in Brasil.
How lucky was I to have the opportunity to work in a campaign entirely dedicated to these issues just a few years later?
Working at CbD this past year allowed me to immerse myself in the literature and the societal efforts aiming to address these questions of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I still have A LOT of questions. But getting to know so many brilliant and exciting people from all over the world (RightsCon, in particular, was the highlight of my career and one of my life) has kept me inspired and excited to continue working on these topics.
Inclusion and diversity
Inequality has been a constant in my life. Even before it became a research interest, it was something that impacted my personal experiences as well: as a scholarship student in school; as one of the few law school students coming from public schools at the University of Sao Paulo (I’ve been happy to see this configuration changing!); and, more recently and in a different configuration, engaging with institutions from the Global North.
It really is impossible to think about technology, regulation, and the kind of world we want without without considering this variable. From the invisible work of those workers training algorithms to even how meetings/ workshops/engagement experiences are conducted, I continue to be impressed with how everything really is power. I want to dedicate myself to learning and reflecting on this, going beyond tech discussions and into historical and sociological approaches. Not only to make more meaningful contributions to data governance discussions but also to understand my place in these discussions (and the world) and how I can use the privileges I (unfortunately) have to lift others.
From reading sociological work to facilitating the participation of marginalized groups in my lectures, 2023 has already been a year of first steps. I even started to learn Spanish for broader engagement and meaningful (data) conversations - it is always harder to learn a new language without the privilege of moving somewhere else, but English grammar has made me spoiled and forget how complex grammar could be!
Making data conversations accessible
“I think we talk about data too much.” This provocation made by Urvashi Aneja at RightsCon stuck with me. The idea that we could be excluding people, especially affected communities, from these essential conversations just by continuing to use technical terms that do not say much in our everyday lives, such as “data” and “artificial intelligence” - terms that unsurprisingly were created by the private actors aiming to push these technologies.
And, apart from the language, there is a need to use alternative resources to engage people, moving beyond academic papers (which, of course, have their value) to other formats and media, such as videos, games, workshops, and speculative fiction. I am particularly proud of a hidden camera type of campaign we did at InternetLab in 2018 that blew up on social media - I had uncles who never understood my work, forwarding it to me!
I look forward to exploring alternatives to carry these conversations, in both research and teaching.