Digital Democracies: Artificial Publics, Just Infrastructures, Ethical Learning

Workshop:
Imre Szeman  – Democracy / Digital / Environment

What role can democracy and the digital (separately or together) play in ameliorating global warming? On the contrary, how does each further contribute to the expansion of practices that generate more (and more) CO2? From the absence of the environment in many elaborations of the common to the greenhouse gases produced by server farms, this workshop will try to provide some answers to the complex equation: digital + democracy + environment.

Panellists: 
Mél Hogan (Communication, Media and Film, U of Calgary)
Eva-Lynn Jagoe (Comparative Literature, U of Toronto)
Geoff Mann (Centre for Global Political Economy and Geography, SFU)
Alicia Massie (Communication Studies, SFU)

Esker Talk: Sweaty Zuckerberg and Cool Computing


Description

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, was on stage at D8: All things Digital Conference being asked about Facebook’s privacy policies. The topic proved difficult for Zuckerberg, who quickly broke out into a terrible sweat. That image is the focus of this presentation: a drenched Zuckerberg under the media spotlight, espousing the benefits of an open world connected by cool computing. Reception to follow. Presented in collaboration with the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary.

Registration recommended, opens 14 January.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/sweaty-zuckerberg-and-cool-computing-with-dr-mel-hogan-tickets-53748816156

photo by C. Tepperman

Download (PDF, 1.27MB)

 

Carleton CGC Conference 2019: INSIDIOUS

About the CGC Conference

Hosted at Carleton University in Ottawa, the CGC Conference is one of the longest running graduate conferences in Canada, attracting student researchers of all disciplines from across the country. The theme of the conference varies year-to-year to accommodate a variety of topics related to the field of communications. Past conference keynote speakers include:

 

Publication: Big data ecologies

Landscapes of political action

http://ephemerajournal.org/contribution/big-data-ecologies

Big Tech is increasingly ‘partnering with/enslaving’ nature in order to maintain and grow its operations while also demonstrating concern for the environment via large scale sustainable infrastructural developments. However, to green their cycles of production, Big Tech invests in infrastructure that not only sustains but also unwittingly serves to encourage consumption at a time of severe social and political unrest and environmental instability. In these material expansions, there is tremendous infrastructural, financial and political support for ongoing consumption and its embedded values: progress, innovation, and social transformation. In order to analyse this power dynamic, I argue that we must reconsider the scale, scope, and the various meanings and enactments of both indigenous and settler ecological thinking, and mediated ecologies, to better understand Big Tech in a rapidly changing environment. I propose the concept of ‘Big Data Ecologies’ to situate infrastructure at the centre of the discussion of neoliberalism within the rapid and global environmental transformations with which they are intertwined.

Data & Society’s Environmental Impact of Data-Driven Technologies Workshop (NYC)

On November 2, 2018, Data & Society will host a workshop in NYC on the environmental impact of data-driven technologies. The purpose of the D&S Workshop series is to enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns.

Environmental Impact of Data-Driven TechnologiesBy the end of 2018, Bitcoin will consume .05% of the world’s energy per year. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of Denmark. Major tech companies are working hard to make cloud services more energy efficient, but server farms still require tremendous power and water to function. Additionally, other parts of the “stack” (e.g., software development, usage patterns) do not take environmental impact into consideration. Likewise, financiers obsessed with blockchain and 5G are often ignoring the environmental impact of the proliferation of these new technologies. While some IoT chipmakers are competing on energy efficiency, cheap production still dominates that conversation at a moment in which data-oriented tech is being introduced into everything.

On the user end, people are streaming a billion hours of YouTube videos every day and loading countless hours of videos and images into online backup services where they are likely to be watched/viewed by humans only a handful of times. Gmail has normalized the idea that everyone should archive email in perpetuity, which means that Facebook notices indicating you have a new message that you received in 2007 are still using up energy.

Apple has been called out for slowing down its operating system when battery life declines to make the user experience more seamless, which, in effect, encourages users to buy more equipment. Yet, the environmental cost of new hardware is piling up – quite literally. Users of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure are encouraged to spin up new machines when they are working with data; they experience no visceral understanding of the environmental impact of their decisions. Likewise, even though most older computer scientists obsessed over runtime efficiency of their algorithms, few who grab code from Github give much thought to the environmental cost of their inefficient code.

Much work is still needed to understand the environmental cost of technology. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together researchers who are examining these issues from different disciplinary and analytic perspectives. Relevant topics for this workshop might include:

  • What is the environmental cost of blockchain, 5G, AI, and other hyped technologies?
  • How do design concerns at different parts of the “stack” affect the environmental impact of whole systems?
  • What would an environmental audit of artificial intelligence look like?
  • How do/might software engineers or other practitioners integrate climate concerns into their practice?
  • What is the relationship between privacy and energy-sensitive code?
  • How do data centers affect water policies in different countries?
  • How can decentralized engineering practices be made more environmentally responsible?

 

Hot off the press! PUBLIC 57: Archive/Counter-Archives!

A provocative exploration of archives and counter-archives.

ARCHIVE/COUNTER-ARCHIVES advances conversations regarding the changing nature and political realities of audio and visual heritage in the twenty-first century. Bringing together artists, archivists, and researchers, this issue of PUBLIC argues that the re-thinking of audio-visual heritage preservation is ultimately strategic and political, especially given the precarious material conditions of archives in the digital era, and the fact that colonial and racialized forms of structural control over the history of place and belonging continue to embargo access to the past for many communities. This issue thus turns towards the transformative potential of counter-archives, which can be political, ingenious, resistant, and community-based. These insurgent archives are embodied differently and have explicit intention to historicize differently, to disrupt conventional national narratives, and to write difference into public accounts. PUBLIC 57 also brings to the fore the work of women and Indigenous, racialized, diasporic, and LGBT2Q+ communities to create counter-archives that expand, interrogate, and disrupt conventional archives and archival methodologies.

 

http://www.publicjournal.ca/public-57-archivecounter-archives/ 

Draft: The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret (Shepherd and Hogan)

The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret

[download here]

Created to gather and analyze intelligence during the Cold War, the National Security Agency (NSA) is a key arm of the US surveillance state that relies on protective secrecy around its activities. Yet in June 2013, Edward Snowden famously leaked a trove of internal NSA documents showing the agency’s expansion into blanket surveillance practices since 9/11. The Snowden leaks precipitated a period of revelation concerning the NSA as what Michael Taussig has called a public secret. In this article, we consider how the public secret of the NSA is mediated through its visual styles, in particular through the promotional communications of the NSA’s public website, the internal communications of PowerPoint slides among the Snowden cache, and the material communications of the agency’s physical buildings. A semiotic approach to the way the NSA mixes romantic, futuristic, and bureaucratic styles shows how the binary ideology of the Cold War continues to permeate the NSA’s mediations of its public secret.

Keywords: surveillance, secrecy, NSA, Snowden, semiotics, ideology, bureaucracy

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