Tag: policy

West African Migration: The Dangers of a Single Story

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Lagos-Abidjan corridor is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in Africa. It is also a migration route that connects mega-cities, peri-urban sprawl, market towns, and villages. For many people residing along the corridor, there are numerous opportunities to be had by jumping on a packed bus, crossing a land border, and tracking down local contacts. Everyday mobility along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor is a far cry from the tired tropes of African migration. Such tropes often feature trafficking, illegal migration, and perilous crossings of the Sahara and Mediterranean. This isn’t the full story—, in fact, it’s just a tiny part of it, as most migration in West Africa is regional. Indeed, the International Organisation for Migration (2015) reports that regional flows account for 84% of movements within West Africa. There is a false but predominant assumption that all sub-Saharan migrants are heading to Europe; one way to counter this is through telling more balanced stories about trans-local and regional migration. (read more...)

Content Moderation: Mediating Public Speech Privately

Social media constitutes a universe of more images, text and videos than can be humanly experienced, read, and heard. However, disinformation, terrorist content, harassment, and other kinds of negative content have made ‘content moderation’ one of the most pressing demands from large online communication platforms (“intermediaries”), such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Every single day, major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube receive thousands of requests to review or take down content that violates their internal policies or an external law. Sometimes they receive requests, both from the US government and foreign governments, for information on users, or to censor specific people and accounts. Content moderation can be defined as “the organized practice of screening user-generated content (UGC) posted to Internet sites, social media, and other online outlets, in order to determine the appropriateness of the content for a given site, locality, or jurisdiction” (Roberts 2017). The rules for content (read more...)

The Dawn of Digital Therapeutics

A techno-optimistic attitude tells us we’re living at an inflexion point where care practices are being transformed by technology. Monitoring and attending to health and well-being are no longer activities bound within physical spaces like hospitals and clinics; these activities have extended to the basic functions of smart phones. A new labor force has emerged for this digitized health transformation utilizing open source engineering platforms, structuring work into two-week Agile design sprints, and leveraging professionals from traditional healthcare settings. In many ways, the practices of these workers appear synonymous to those of other start-up companies across industry spaces. Throughout ethnographic fieldwork over the last year, I have explored the evolution of this phenomenon within an emergent area of the digital health sphere: Digital therapeutics. (read more...)

Politics in environmental research infrastructure formation: When top-down policy-making meets bottom-up fragmentation

By: Elena Parmiggiani, Helena Karasti, Karen Baker, and Andrea Botero The environmental sciences have been a fertile ground for the development of scientific infrastructures (a.k.a. cyberinfrastructure in the USA and research infrastructure in Europe). Their promises of addressing grand challenges such as climate change require increasing collaboration as well as new forms of research based on data sharing. However, infrastructure policy work in this domain has proven arduous. The environmental sciences are intrinsically heterogeneous with variations in data that must be navigated across local and global scales, ecological variety, societal concerns, and funding structures. (read more...)

Unpredictable Technologies: The need for thick description in regulatory decision-making

I call myself a scholar of information, communication, and technology with a view toward influencing law and policy. To that end, my motto over that last few years has been “Social Science matters!” And by that, I really mean that qualitative research, or research aimed at understanding how people and organizations actually use technology, is important for creating good law. To this end, ethnographic study, the kind that produces thick descriptions of people and culture, should be MO of any body tasked with writing regulations. Recently I was asked to participate in training a group of telecommunications regulators who want to conduct a regulatory impact assessment (RIA). A RIA is a thorough investigation of the possible impacts of a proposed or revised regulation. In the most basic sense, the investigation is used to forecast whether the new rule will achieve what it’s supposed to, and what else could happen. Countries around the world use RIAs to evaluate regulatory needs and possible interventions. US federal agencies have been required to conduct and submit RIAs since the early 1980s, and President Bill Clinton codified this requirement in 1993 with Executive Order 12866. A second executive order, 13563, requires that agencies use “the best available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future benefits and costs as accurately as possible.” (read more...)