The last day of this edition of the summer school! After all the information we got in the past two weeks it has been very helpful to conclude this cycle with a workshop in which we set down to look back and forward. Right in the morning, with the help of Gideon from the Centre for Innovation, we looked back at the past 12 days and expressed what we learned and what we think we missed. Moreover, we discussed our future plans and how we are thinking to proceed in this new field. It has been great to understand that the work that has been done in the past weeks will continue with the network of people that is growing around the topic of big data and the Centre for Innovation of Leiden University.
Thursday July 16th was the second and last day of Governance. The summer-school is close to the end but there is still room for learning and attending inspiring lectures from the speakers. As a follow up of the workshop we made during day 8, Mark Latonero from the Research Institute Data & Society started the day with a lecture on tensions in data and human rights. One of the main assumptions has been that technology is not good, bad, nor neutral but it can be addressed for different purpose.
The first day of Governance! We are getting into the last chapter of the summer school; even if we start being a bit tired the level of enthusiasm in discovering new shapes of big data is still very high. The day started with Jos and Uli giving us an overview of the topic we will face in the last three days.
In the morning two great speakers took the floor and gave inspiring lecture. Kavita Ziemann, from The Hague Institute for Internationaliastion of Law (HiiL) spoke about the different tools and infrastructures that policy makers might use in innovating justice. On the other hand, Jennifer Easterday from JustPeace Labs spoke about responsible frameworks to approach data.
The last day of behaviour started with an engaging and interesting lecture of Mark Nelson. During the first three hours of the morning session we underlined the differences between persuasive technology and behaviour design, we considered the uninthetended consequences that innovative technologies might bring, and we studied real cases such as CouchSurfing and Uber to measure how peaceful technology might be.
We started this second week with a talk with Mark Nelson about behaviour design and persuasive technology. He reiterated a few points about how software is superseding religion and law for instilling faster change in human behaviours and attitudes. It was pretty scary to listen to all of this but also extremely cool. The possibilities for behaviour design are endless, so we need to ensure that we can design ethically, with a moral compass, for peace.
The first day of the second track: Behaviour. After a great dinner last night, we were all fairly tired. It was probably more challenging for the instructors to try to keep our fluctuating energy levels up. Mark Nelson, founder of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, was particularly engaging. We had a brief rundown of behaviour design and peace innovation. In this era, we have new tools which means new perspectives on a scale unseen before. How can we use big data for peace (good)?
After, we heard from Tim Receveur from PeaceTech Labs in Washington DC. They focus on technology in sustainable local initiatives. Instead of flying in experts from the West, for example, they collaborate with homegrown talent in areas such as the MENA region to build thriving ecosystems for peace and innovation.
The morning began with an excellent lecture by Bruno Lepri from MIT Media Lab and the Data-Pop Alliance. He focussed not on social media, but on mobile phone data and the best practices for leveraging it. His reason for dismissing social media data? It is only an illusion, or an image, of how we want people to see us. On the other hand, mobile phone data actually tells us about somebody’s habits and their “real” selves: where they are, who they contact, and what they’re looking at &c.
The next lecture was from Miguel Luengo-Oroz, a research director with UN Global Pulse. He told us of some projects, their limitations, and the hopes for big data within the UN. One example given was the use of cellphone data to map night schedules for public transport in South Korea. While Bruno’s lecture was more academic-focussed, Miguel’s lecture showed us how big data is being used, right now, in practise. It was a great juxtaposition of content.
The third day focussed on collecting new data from different data streams. In the morning, Thomas Baar of the Peace Informatics Lab gave an extremely interesting lecture on dealing with new data streams. He gave a nice, abstract overview of data for policy which enabled us to draw some new lines on our distinctions of big data.
After a coffee break, Mark van Embden-Andres presented work from Elva, a consultancy agency based in Georgia, on how to collect digital data from local communities. He discussed the integrity and verification, and the problems and challenges of the methodologies of data collection related to types of data.
After a good night’s rest digesting all of the information from yesterday’s session, we started the second day with a lecture on data science for policy and the barriers to impact with Linnet Taylor from the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA). Linnet discussed four case studies and jumped into the pitfalls of data science, patiently answering all of our questions with enthusiasm. We discussed amongst ourselves the problems, solutions, and ethics of the collection, analysis, and dispatch of Big Data. Our post-session keyword was: trade-offs. Trade-offs in privacy, transparency, manipulation, and oversight.
The Big Data for Peace Summer School kicked off with a massively entertaining and informative lecture by Paul Iske from the Institute of Brilliant Failures and the Institute for Serious Optimism. After starting the day with pastries and coffees, we were told to laugh and think outside our “bubble” to encourage creativity and innovation.
As entrepreneurs for a small tech start-up, Paul’s lecture was something we resonated with. We looked at excuses that stifle innovation (from “it’s not in the budget” to “can you guarantee this will work?”) and we looked at environments for innovation: diversity, selection, perpetuation, co-evolution, unlearning, disruption, simplicity, spare capacity, and time. Surprisingly, not a lot of domains reach these criteria.