In Austria, we’re diving through the “4th Corona wave” right now including a hard lockdown. Yet again, I’m sitting in my home (office) with the kids on my lap in case more than two school kids get infected in the same class. The responsibility has been fully shifted onto teachers, parents, and their kids by now. Politics has given up on the Covid-management of schools, as it seems. In the middle of this chaos, I’m enthusiastically thinking back to my (real!) trip to Lund two months ago. Olof Sundin and Alison Gerber invited me to give a keynote lecture at the interdisciplinary symposium In Search of Search (and its Engines). This workshop was a kind of gathering of pioneering search engine scholars that accompany me since my PhD (more than 15 years now). I finally met Elizabeth van Couvering, for example, whose work on the commercialization of Google and the creation of its business model based on the “traffic commodity” had a great impact on my PhD research. Also, Richard Rogers, Dirk Lewandowski, Jutta Haider, and other great scholars were there and it was FUN! (and not only because of the real food & drinks!) The best part is that we keep the lively debates about search engines, search engine research, and its academic & sociopolitical impact alive. We’re currently working on a special issue for Big Data & Society called The State of Google Critique and Intervention co-edited by Ov Cristian Norocel, Richard Rogers, and myself. We’re planning a workshop and a public event in Vienna (12 April 2022), which I love to organize in the middle of this 4th wave as a possibility to work towards a light at the end of the tunnel.. 😉 So stay tuned!
Moreover, almost as an exception to the rule, I attended a great 4S online session this year: Wiring digital justice: Embedding rights in Internet governance by infrastructure organized by Stefania Milan, Niels ten Oever, and Francesca Musiani. Despite the shitty online platform the conference was running on, the session organizers managed to trigger fruitful discussions by providing thoughtful comments after each of the presentations. My paper was titled “Encoding Freedom: Analysis of open search technology between German hacker ethics and Asian start-up culture” and triggered debates about Chinese tech development and the “metrics of freedom” that I’m still thinking about – now that I finally have time to analyze my rich empirical materials on open source communities and other alternative search projects.
Here’s the link to the video documentary of past year’s Ars Electronica event “How to become a high-tech anti-discrimination activist collective” that was co-organized with the Johannes Kepler University in Linz (A). Both my colleague Doris Allhutter and me organized a workshop as part of this bigger event. My workshop was concerned with AI technology and open source alternatives: “How to create your own AI device with SUSI.AI – An Open Source Platform for Conversational Web”. It was a great opportunity to catch up with my co-workshop leader Hong Phuc Dang from SUSI.AI (one of my case studies of my current search engine project; see research). Many thanks to the organizers!! It was fun!
Two panel discussions might be worth mentioning: 1) I participated in this year’s Joint Academy Day of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (organized together with the Canadian Academy of Sciences). Our panel was concerned with the Covid-19 crisis and its social, economic, and policy implications. The video can be watched here. 2) The Austrian newspaper “Wiener Zeitung” organized a panel discussion on the topic of “Algorithms – friend or enemy?”; the link to the video can be found here.
Doris Allhutter und ich haben einen Beitrag für den Blog “Arbeit und Wirtschaft” zu unserer Studie zum sogenannten “AMS-Algorithmus” verfasst (auf dt.). Der Blog Post ist hier online abrufbar; die Studie (gemeinsam mit Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer und Gabriel Grill) ist hier zu finden. Aus Platzgründen konnte das im Blog Post verwendete “Szenario” einer fiktiven Arbeitssuchenden – Shifteh A. – leider nicht zur Gänze abgebildet werden. Deshalb möchte ich es hier veröffentlichen:
Nachdem wir im Rahmen unserer Studie weder einen direkten Zugang zu AMAS (Arbeitsmarkt-Chancen-Assistenzsystem), noch zu den dafür verwendeten Daten hatten sind die Berechnungen des Szenarios fiktiv. Sie können keine tatsächlichen IC-Werte (Integrationschancen-Werte) oder Fehlerraten berechnen, aber sie können die mit AMAS verbundenen Probleme im Zusammenspiel von technischem Bias und sozialer Praxis (auf Basis der uns vom AMS zur Verfügung gestellten Dokumente & Materialien) plausibel illustrieren. In unserem Bericht haben wir drei weitere Szenarien verfasst, die alle auf ein konkretes Problem in der praktischen Handhabung von AMAS eingehen. Sie können hier im Detail nachgelesen werden.
Finally, our report of the project on the so-called AMS-algorithm is out!!! YAY!!! It was a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it! It is an in-depth sociotechnical analysis and deconstruction of the algorithm the Austrian public employment service (AMS) is planning to roll out all over Austria starting from January 2021. The algorithm poses several severe challenges on both the institutional level and the larger societal level, as we – Doris Allhutter, Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer and Gabriel Grill – argued in our report. We’d like to thank the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor (AK OÖ) that financed our study and particularly Dennis Tamesberger for his support throught the process. Here you can download the full report.
The report triggered lots of media coverage, e.g. in APA Science or at orf.at. We also did some interviews, e.g. for the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Futurezone or the radio broadcast Ö1 (all in German). The final report is in German, but english publications will (hopefully) follow SOON! For now I’d like to point you to the english publications in New Frontiers in Big Data that we published a year ago (only based on publicly available materials back then, but still relevant in its argumentation):
Allhutter, D., Cech, F., Fischer, F., Grill, G. & Mager, A. (2020) “Algorithmic Profiling of Job Seekers in Austria: How Austerity Politics Are Made Effective”, Frontiers in Big Data (Special Issue Critical Data and Algorithm Studies), full text; open access here.
The special issue I guest-edited together with Christian Katzenbach is going to be (finally) published in February 2021. I’d like to thank Steve Jones for his support throughout this rather long, but finally rewarding process. It’s a pity SAGE won’t publish an online first version of the articles, but well, they apparently agreed to do so for future New Media & Society special issues, which I’d highly appreciate!!! Thanks also to all our authors for their fine contributions and their patience! If you’d like to read our editorial “Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified” I’d like to point you to our preprint version here. Let us know what you think about our interpretations and advancements of the concept “sociotechnial imaginaries” by Sheila Jasanoff and related analytical tools to capture, understand, and investigate future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology. It’s an ongoing debate we wanted to contribute to with this special issue and its excellent contributions..
Unter diesem Titel habe ich kürzlich eine Buchrezension zu Roberto Simanowskis Buch “Todesalgorithmus. Das Dilemma der künstlichen Intelligenz” für Soziopolis geschrieben. Kurz zusammen gefasst: Das Buch, das sich mit Künstlicher Intelligenz (KI) aus moralphilosophischer Sicht beschäftigt, ist eine Empfehlung! Die spekulative Herangehensweise zudem mitunter auch sehr unterhaltsam! – So etwa die allmächtige Öko-KI, die den Menschen (und unseren Planeten) vor sich selbst retten wird. Die gesamte Rezension ist hier zu lesen.
This year I have the pleasure to give a workshop together with Hong Phuc Dang as part of the ARS Electronica Festival 2020. The title is How to create your own AI device with SUSI.AI – An Open Source Platform for Conversational Web and its part of an overall event Waltraud Ernst and colleagues from the University of Linz have organized. The whole event is dealing with bias and discrimination in algorithmic systems: “How to become a high-tech anti-discrimination activist collective” with awesome keynotes by Lisa Nakamura and Safiya Noble; more infos can be found on the ARS/ Uni Linz website. There you can also register if you’re interested in participating! I’m already looking forward to this event!!!
Tomorrow the huge 4S/EASST conference starts, albeit virtually. It’s the first ZOOM conference I’m attending at this scale and I’m really curious how that will work out! 😉 I’m involved in three sessions:
- First, I’m contributing a paper on my alternative search engines research to the “grassroot innovation” session that nicely fits the scope of my paper. My first analysis of the YaCy/ SUSI.AI research materials is on visions/ politics of open source developer communities, their practices & politics, their relation to both the state and capital and how cultural differences play into all that – comparing Europe, Asia and the US. Here’s the link to the session.
- Second, I’m involved in the session “building digital public sector” with our research on the “AMS algorithm” (together with Doris Allhutter, Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer & Gabriel Grill). We’re presenting a sociotechnical analysis of the algorithm and its biases & implications for social practices. Here’s the link to the session & here’s the link to our article for further information.
- Finally, Christian Katzenbach and I have submitted a paper to the session “lost in the dreamscapes of modernity?” that covers the main arguments of our editorial to the special issue in NM&S on future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology (which is currently in press and will hopefully be published soon!). The editorial argues that sociotechnical imaginaries should not only be seen as monolithic, one-dimensional and policy-oriented, but also as multiple, contested and commodified; especially in the field of digital tech. Here’s the link to the session.
If you’re registered for the conference you can find the links to the ZOOM meetings right next to the sessions.
Here’s the link to my Standard blog post on COVID-19 & digitalization (in German); the teaser reads as follows:
E-Learning-Plattformen und Videokonferenz-Tools haben sich in unserem Alltag eingenistet. Kaum ein Haushalt, der sich dem noch entziehen kann. Dennoch dürfen grundlegende technopolitische Fragen nicht aus den Augen verloren werden.