Citizen Technologist

The CTSP Blog

The Vision Archive: An online library of aspirational, open source social justice imagery

By Gracen Brilmyer & Una Lee, CTSP Fellows | Permalink

Collection of Vision Archive graphicsOur movements need more images! Social justice organizers have a wide visual vocabulary of protest — raised fists, barbed wire, marchers holding placards — but should we not also depict the world we are building in addition to the forces we’re resisting? How can we communicate concepts we hold dear; concepts like beloved community, allyship, and consent?

The Vision Archive brings together designers, artists, advocates, and community organizers to co-create images for the world we want to build. Visionarchive.io is a Github for visionary social justice images, allowing users to upload images so other users can download and remix them and upload their new creations.

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A User-Centered Perspective on Algorithmic Personalization

By Rena Coen, Emily Paul, Pavel Vanegas, and G.S. Hans, CTSP Fellows | Permalink

We conducted a survey using experimentally controlled vignettes to measure user attitudes about online personalization and develop an understanding of the factors that contribute to personalization being seen as unfair or discriminatory. Come learn more about these findings and hear from the Center for Democracy & Technology on the policy implications of this work at our event tonight!

What is online personalization?

Some of you may be familiar with a recent story, in which United Artists presented Facebook users with different movie trailers for the film Straight Outta Compton based on their race, or “ethnic affinity group,” which was determined based on users’ activity on the site.

This is just one example of online personalization, where content is tailored to users based on some user attribute. Such personalization can be beneficial to consumers but it can also have negative and discriminatory effects, as in the targeted trailers for Straight Outta Compton or Staples’ differential retail pricing based on zip code. Of course, not all personalization is discriminatory; there are examples of online personalization that many of us see as useful and have even come to expect. One example of this is providing location-based results for generic search terms like “coffee” or “movie showtimes.”

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FutureGov: Drones and Open Data

By Kristine Gloria, CTSP Fellow | Permalink

As we’ve explored in previous blog posts, civil drone applications are growing, and concerns regarding violations of privacy follow closely. We’ve thrown in our own two cents offering a privacy policy-by-design framework. But, this post isn’t (necessarily) about privacy. Instead, we pivot our focus towards the benefits and challenges of producing Open Government Drone Data. As proponents of open data initiatives, we advocate its potential for increased collaboration, accessibility and transparency of government programs. The question, therefore, is: How can we make government drone data more open?

A drone’s capability to capture large amounts of data – audio, sensory, geospatial and visual – serves as a promising pathway for future smart city proposals. It also has many data collection, use and retention policies that require considering data formats and structures.

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Exciting Upcoming Events from CTSP Fellows

By Galen Panger, CTSP Director | Permalink

Five of CTSP’s eleven collaborative teams will present progress and reflections from their work in two exciting Bay Area events happening this month, and there’s a common theme: How can we better involve the communities and stakeholders impacted by technology’s advance? On May 17, three teams sketch preliminary answers to questions about racial and socioeconomic inclusion in technology using findings from their research right here in local Bay Area communities. Then, on May 18, join two teams as they discuss the importance of including critical stakeholders in the development of policies on algorithms and drones.

Please join us on May 17 and 18, and help us spread the word by sharing this post with friends or retweeting the tweet below. All the details below the jump.

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Developing Strategies to Counter Online Abuse

By Nick Doty, CTSP | Permalink

We are excited to host a panel of experts this Wednesday, talking about strategies for making the Internet more gender-inclusive and countering online harassment and abuse.

Toward a Gender-Inclusive Internet: Strategies to Counter Harassment, Revenge Porn, Threats, and Online Abuse
Wednesday, April 27; 4:10-5:30 pm
202 South Hall, Berkeley, CA
Open to the public; Livestream available

These are experts and practitioners in law, journalism and technology with an interest in the problem of online harassment. And more importantly, they’re all involved with ongoing concrete approaches to push back against this problem (see, for example, Activate Your Squad and Block Together). While raising awareness about online harassment and understanding the causes and implications remains important, we have reached the point where we can work on direct countermeasures.

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Please Can We Not Try to Rationalize Emoji

By Galen Panger, CTSP Director | Permalink

Emoji are open to interpretation, and that’s a good thing. Credit: Samuel Barnes

Emoji are open to interpretation, and that’s a good thing. Credit: Samuel Barnes

This week a study appeared on the scene suggesting an earth-shattering, truly groundbreaking notion: Emoji “may be open to interpretation.”

And then the headlines. “We Really Don’t Know What We’re Saying When We Use Emoji,” a normally level-headed Quartz proclaimed. “That Emoji Does Not Mean What You Think It Means,” Gizmodo declared. “If Emoji Are the Future of Communication Then We’re Screwed,” New York Magazine cried, obviously not trying to get anyone to click on its headline.

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Start Research Project. Fix. Then Actually Start.

By Robyn Perry, CTSP Fellow | Permalink

If you were living in a new country, would you know how to enroll your child in school, get access to health insurance, or find affordable legal assistance? And if you didn’t, how would you deal?

As Maggie, Kristen, and I are starting to interview immigrant women living in the US and the organizations that provide support to them, we are trying to understand how they deal – particularly, how they seek social support when they face stress.

This post gives a bit of an orientation to our project and helps us document our research process.

We’ve developed two semi-structured questionnaires to guide our interviews: one for immigrants and one for staff at service providers (organizations that provide immigrants with legal aid, job training, access to resources for navigating life in the US, and otherwise support their entry and integration). We are seeking to learn about women immigrants who have been in the US between 1-7 years. All interviews are conducted in English by one of the team members. For this reason, we are striving for a high degree of consistency in our interview process because we will each be conducting one-on-one interviews separately from each other.

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Moderating Harassment in Twitter with Blockbots

By Stuart Geiger, ethnographer and post-doctoral scholar at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science | Permalink

I’ve been working on a research project about counter-harassment projects in Twitter, where I’ve been focusing on blockbots (or bot-based collective blocklists) in Twitter. Blockbots are a different way of responding to online harassment, representing a more decentralized alternative to the standard practice of moderation — typically, a site’s staff has to go through their own process to definitively decide what accounts should be suspended from the entire site. I’m excited to announce that my first paper on this topic will soon be published in Information, Communication, and Society (the PDF on my website and the publisher’s version).

This post is a summary of that article and some thoughts about future work in this area. The paper is based on my empirical research on this topic, but it takes a more theoretical and conceptual approach given how novel these projects are. I give an overview of what blockbots are, the context in which they have emerged, and the issues that they raise about how social networking sites are to be governed and moderated with computational tools. I think there is room for much future research on this topic, and I hope to see more work on this topic from a variety of disciplines and methods.

What are blockbots?

Blockbots are automated software agents developed and used by independent, volunteer users of Twitter, who have developed their own social-computational tools to help moderate their own experiences on Twitter.

blockbot

The blocktogether.org interface, which lets people subscribe to other people’s blocklists, publish their own blocklists, and automatically block certain kinds of accounts.

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Privacy for Citizen Drones: Use Cases for Municipal Drone Applications

By Timothy Yim, CTSP Fellow and Director of Data & Privacy at Startup Policy Lab | Permalink

Previous Citizen Drone Articles:

  1. Citizen Drones: delivering burritos and changing public policy
  2. Privacy for Citizen Drones: Privacy Policy-By-Design
  3. Privacy for Citizen Drones: Use Cases for Municipal Drone Applications

Startup Policy Lab is leading a multi-disciplinary initiative to create a model policy and framework for municipal drone use.

A Day in the Park

We previously conceptualized a privacy policy-by-design framework for municipal drone applications—one that begins with gathering broad stakeholder input from academia, industry, civil society organizations, and municipal departments themselves. To demonstrate the benefits of such an approach, we play out a basic scenario.

A city’s Recreation and Parks Department (“Parks Dept.”) wants to use a drone to monitor the state of its public parks for maintenance purposes, such as proactive tree trimming prior to heavy seasonal winds, vegetation pruning around walking paths, and any directional or turbidity changes in water flows. For most parks, this would amount to twice-daily flights of approximately 15–30 minutes each. The flight video would then be reviewed, processed, and stored by the Parks Dept.

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Privacy for Citizen Drones: Privacy Policy-By-Design

By Timothy Yim, CTSP Fellow and Director of Data & Privacy at Startup Policy Lab | Permalink

Startup Policy Lab is leading a multi-disciplinary initiative to create a model policy and framework for municipal drone use.

Towards A More Reasoned Approach

Significant policy questions have arisen from the nascent but rapidly increasing adoption of drones in society today. The developing drone ecosystem is a prime example of how law and policy must evolve with and respond to emerging technology, in order for society to thrive while still preserving its normative values.

Privacy has quickly become a vital issue in the debate over acceptable drone use by government municipalities. In some instances, privacy concerns over the increased potential for government surveillance have even led to wholesale bans on the use of drones by municipalities.

Let me clear. This is a misguided approach.

Without a doubt, emerging drone technology is rapidly increasing the potential ability of government to engage in surveillance, both intentionally and unintentionally, and therefore to intrude on the privacy of its citizenry. And likewise, it’s also absolutely true that applying traditional privacy principles—such as notice, consent, and choice—has proven incredibly challenging in the drone space. For the record, these are legitimate and serious concerns.

Yet even under exceptionally strong constructions of modern privacy rights, including those enhanced protections afforded under state constitutions such as California’s, an indiscriminate municipal drone ban makes little long-term sense. A wholesale ban cuts off municipal modernization and the many potential benefits of municipal drone use—for instance, decreased costs and increased frequency of monitoring for the maintenance of public parks, docks, and bridges.

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