On February 3rd a group of twenty five stakeholders joined us at the Digital Catapult in London for our first discussion workshop.
The User Engagement workpackage of the project focuses on gathering together professionals from industry, academia, education, NGOs and research institutes in order to discuss societal and ethical issues surrounding the design, development and use of algorithms on the internet. We aim to create a space where these stakeholders can come together and discuss their various concerns and perspectives. This includes finding differences of opinion. For example, participants from industry often view algorithms as proprietary and commercially sensitive whereas those from NGOs frequently call for greater transparency in algorithmic design. It is important for us to draw out these kinds of varying perspectives and understand in detail the reasoning that lies behind them. Then, combined with the outcomes of the other project workpackages, we can identify points of resolution and produce outputs that seek to advance responsibility on algorithm driven internet platforms.
The UnBias team is pleased to announce the launch of a ground-breaking report that articulates the voice of children and young people, and their relationship to the internet and digital technologies.
This report is titled ‘The Internet on our Own Term: How Children and Young People Deliberated about their Digital Rights’ and describes the work carried since April 2015 in which young people aged between 12 and 17 gathered together in the cities of Leeds, London and Nottingham to participate in a series of jury-styled focus groups designed to ‘put the internet on trial’. In total, nine juries took place which included 108 young people, approximately 12 participants per jury.
For algorithm based systems, as with many other topics, 2016 turned out to be an eventful year. As we close the year and look back on events, the course of 2016 brought many of the issues we intend to address in the UnBias project to the attention of people and organizations who previously perhaps had not considered these things before.
The first youth jury sessions of the UnBias project took place last weekend and were highly interesting and thought provoking. Despite the cold and rainy weather, we had a great turnout with nearly 30 young people choosing to attend. Our youth jurors mostly ranged in age from 13 to 18 and took part in two interactive activities.
We invite stakeholders from academia, education, government/regulatory oversight organizations, civil society, media, industry and entrepreneurs to contribute to our ongoing research study by taking part in a small number of stakeholder engagement workshops. These workshops will explore the implications of algorithm-mediated interactions on online platforms. They provide an opportunity for relevant stakeholders to put forward their perspectives and discuss the ways in which algorithms shape online behaviours, in particular in relation to access and the dissemination of information to users. The workshops will provide an excellent opportunity for participants to exchange ideas and explore solutions with perspectives from a wide range of stakeholders. Following each workshop the participants will receive an anonymized report of the outcomes, which will contribute to the production of policy recommendations as well as the design of a ‘fairness toolkit’ for users, online providers and other stakeholders.
A lot has been said about algorithms working as gatekeepers and making decisions on our behalf, often without us noticing it. I can surely find an example in my daily life where I do notice it and benefit from it. This happens when I use the “Discover Weekly” Spotify play-list. By comparing my listening habits to that of other users with similar but not identical choices, Spotify allows information on the fringes to be shared. It is thus “tailored” to my music taste, and it is incredibly accurate in predicting things I would like. Besides, it lets me discover new music and bands and in many occasions can also take me back in time with some tunes I have probably not listened to for a long time.