About the Center

The Center for Technology, Society & Policy is a multidisciplinary research and design/build center focusing on the emergent social and policy issues arising from the development and adoption of technology. We seek to build a community of researchers and technologists on campus and beyond who engage with these issues in collaboration with community organizations and advocates, policy-makers, and technology companies.

Co-led by a rotating team of two PhD students, we support relevant projects of UC Berkeley students and their collaborators and host events to discuss new scholarship, action, and platforms. For 2019, our Areas of Focus are Health + Sensors, Sustaining Democracy and Building Community, Integrating Safety & Privacy, and Just Algorithms: Fairness, Transparency, and Justice. We are housed at the UC Berkeley School of Information, and frequently collaborate with the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group and the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity to accomplish these goals.

What we do:

  • Fellowships: Our flagship fellowship is open to UC Berkeley students and post-docs and their collaborators. Check out funded projects from 2016, 2017, 2018. Apply now for 2019.
  • Data for Good Competition: In Spring 2018, we put out a CFP for teams of students from across the UC Berkeley campus to apply data science skills to address a social good problem with public open data. These projects reached the Seed Grant phase.
  • Events: Several times a semester, CTSP supports public facing panels, workshops, or lectures related to our core themes.

 

CTSP was founded in 2015 by PhD candidates Galen Panger and Nicholas Doty with a generous unrestricted grant from Google, which has since been renewed. We are also supported by event funding from Facebook (the Data for Good competition) and the Charles Koch Foundation (for the Digital Security Crash Course).

All CTSP fellowship support is independently determined by the CTSP leadership and is not based on or indicative of funder approval.

CTSP’s Advisory Board currently includes: Anno Saxenian, Deirdre Mulligan, and Steve Weber.

For 2018-2019 academic year CTSP is led by co-directors Daniel Griffin and Anne Jonas. Learn more about our leadership.

 

Stay informed by subscribing to our email list and following us Twitter.

 

If you have questions or ideas, feel free to send us an email.

Areas of Focus 2019

CTSP has four new areas of focus for this next year. These written descriptions are intended to prompt engagement with these broad areas and their intersections with technology, society, and policy. They are not a complete description of the interesting and important intersections that CTSP might fund.

Health + Sensors

How can new sensing technologies shift what we know and are able to accomplish? How can we change our use, design, and regulation for technology to improve individual and community wellness and healthcare? Projects can include: exploring the implications of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities/landscapes, ambient sensors, wearables, audio/video surveillance, personal well-being, promoting healthy communities, enhancing healthcare, and providing universal designs that increase accessibility.

Sustaining Democracy and Building Community

Projects in this area should focus on the “public sector” broadly construed. What are mechanisms for supporting accountability, representation, and robust protection of rights and responsibilities in civic life? Topics may include: democracy, housing, elections, “fake news”, free speech, public discourse, environmental policies and governance, harassment and participation in online media, schooling, welfare, criminal legal system and its alternatives, and empowering citizens through open data and education.

Integrating Safety & Privacy

Questions about security are framed by many as a trade-off between safety and privacy. We welcome projects that challenge or broaden this framing and encourage integration of the two, seeking to identify how safety and privacy are facilitated or limited in multiple scenarios  and where people or groups are “differentially vulnerable.” This focus area includes reimagining cybersecurity online as well as its effects and inputs offline.

Just Algorithms: Fairness, Transparency, and Justice

Algorithmic processes are implicated in allocative and representational harms while driving immense value creation. Researchers are currently investigating questions of fairness and transparency within algorithmic systems, exploring whether and how algorithms are used to further the cause of justice. This focus area expands beyond fairness and transparency to consider more broadly what just algorithmic systems are and highlights the importance of looking beyond just the algorithms. Projects in this focus area may receive joint sponsorship from the UC Berkeley Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity working group (AFOG).

Special Project Themes

Tech Worker Organizing and Bay Area Housing Instability and Homelessness are pressing areas of concern that lie at the heart of technology, society, and policy issues. This year, we invite project proposals for our Special Project Fellow that address these themes in a way that intersects with the above focus areas and the mission of CTSP.

 

Tech Worker Organizing

Tech Worker Organizing refers to recent movements led by employees at technology companies and members of open source software communities to critique partnerships, clientele, organizational structures, and tools that are seen as harmful to the social fabric even as they might benefit the company’s bottom line and their shareholders. Organizers have called on companies to reshape their policies and interrogate their impact on society, the technologies they build and deploy, the uses of their technologies, their organizational and management practices, and their massive influence as large corporations concentrated in complex urban areas. These efforts have focused both inwards – on wage disparities, sexual harassment, and discrimination – and outwards – decrying company contributions to gentrification, partnerships with governments causing harm, and products that are used for purposes of coercion, surveillance, or disempowerment.  We encourage projects that explore where and how tech workers are using their voices and building coalitions, how this organizing is being understood, histories and case studies that contextualize current efforts, the role of the university in preparing future technology professionals for this work and in its own capacity as an institution with social responsibilities to those it employs and serves, and what kinds of technologies, policies, and strategies could move these conversations forward.

 

Bay Area Housing Instability and Homelessness

The Bay Area faces increased housing precarity and homelessness as a consequence of social and policy choices, and policymakers, advocates, and technologists can work to understand patterns of dispossession and opportunities for supporting people who have lost their housing alongside those who find themselves in precarious living situations. For this area, we encourage proposals that interrogate existing practices and alternative arrangements for how municipalities, the state, companies, and communities can develop a housing ecosystem that provides safety for all. Current conditions threaten the health and wellbeing of those living in dangerous situations and general community cohesion, presenting massive challenges for governance (potentially exacerbated by the effects of climate change). Too often “solutions” fail to take into account the autonomy, security, and privacy rights of those who come into contact with the state due to housing instability, and as scholar Virginia Eubanks has shown in her book Automating Inequality, algorithmic decision making systems present one vector of disturbing trends towards surveillance as a means of control. Thus, this topic is one that entangles all of CTSP’s focus areas, and we welcome projects that take up any and all of these intertwined elements.  

Banner Photo Credit: “Berkeley Sunset” by Joe Parks is licensed under CC BY 2.0