sharing big data: let it be complicated.

linnet taylor

I’m at the Internet Governance Forum 2013 in Bali this week, which kicked off this morning with a discussion on ‘Growth and user empowerment through data commons’ The panel was myself, Alan Paul of the World Economic Forum, and Amparo Ballivian of the World Bank’s Open Data initiative. The panel addressed the issue of how big data and open data could be important in different types of country, at different national income levels. The headings ‘growth and user empowerment’ do not necessarily belong together, and in fact may be specifically in conflict, so it wasn’t surprising that the panel addressed them separately. We discussed how big data was currently contributing to low and middle income countries’ development (answer: not hugely, but there is great potential to digitise huge mounds of locally collected and stored written data and use it to complement, fill out or replace national statistics on issues such…

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Group Privacy: the next generation of privacy problems

Data protection doesn’t engage with the collective level – is it time for change?

Source: Group Privacy: the next generation of privacy problems

Group Privacy: the next generation of privacy problems

linnet taylor

In 2014 I met a new faculty member at the Oxford Internet Institute at the photocopier, right at the end of my last day there, and his first. Discussing what we were doing there, we got talking about how privacy didn’t seem to work very well if you looked at it from different disciplinary perspectives, particularly from the angle of development studies. When data are collected and used in places prone to conflict, political instability or otherwise limited statehood, the conditions for collection and use are often not those visualised by data protection laws in wealthier countries. For one thing, visualising conflict data may put whole communities at risk, and the new data technologies (using secondary data collected indirectly from people’s use of devices or services) often leave people unaware that their data are being collected in the first place.

The new faculty member was Luciano Floridi, a leading philosopher of information…

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Some well-known (and some lesser-known) facts about digitalisation, deindustrialisation and the future of work

Skills and Work

By Stijn Broecke.

blog52-0Today the OECD has released a new working paper by Thor Berger and Carl Frey (famous from his work on theautomatability of jobs) which provides a systematic overview of the literature examining the impact of digitalisation on labour markets. By now, the stylised facts are becoming well-known:

  • Over the course of the 20th century, technological change has increased the demand for skilled workers more than for unskilled workers (i.e. technological change has been skill-biased)
  • In more recent decades, computers and robots have been increasingly used as substitutes for workers performing routine activities (i.e. technological change has been routine-biased)
  • The latter has resulted in a “hollowing out” of the labour market in many countries in terms of jobs involving mid-level skills, combined with an expansion of low-skilled and high-skilled (i.e. job polarisation)
  • While technologies have displaced workers in a wide range of jobs, they have…

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Reform and the (not so) new role of stewardship

helen dickinson

This is a re-posting of a blog I wrote for the good people over at Power to Persuade

The Victorian government recently announced a new reform agenda to develop a ‘public sector that delivers exceptional outcomes for Victorians…[and] set out a new way of thinking about how government works, all the way from strategy to service delivery’.  This will be achieved through a focus on four areas (outcomes, systems, people and accountability) which are interconnected around the improvement of government and delivery of ‘public purpose’.

The case for change includes some of the more well-rehearsed factors (e.g. demographic, digital, environmental shifts) and also the re-emergence of others (e.g. corruption).  Perhaps, though, the most significant driver outlined in the report is that of the changing nature of government.  The argument goes that over the past few decades we have seen a gradual erosion of the volume of direct service…

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WMD articles and interviews


I haven’t been posting too often, in part because I’ve been traveling a lot on book tour, and also because I’ve been writing for other things and interviewing quite a bit. Today I wanted to share some of that stuff.

  1. I wrote a Q&A for Jacobin called Welcome to the Black Box.
  2. I wrote a piece for Slate called How Big Data Transformed Applying to College.
  3. Times Higher Education chose my book as their reviewed Book of the Week and had a nice spread about it.

There may be more, and I’ll post them when I remember them.

Also, great news! My book is a best-seller in Canada! Those Canadians are just the smartest.

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Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age


bigdata Pic by Jim Kaskade (flickr creative commons)

Matthew Salganik, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, has recently put his forthcoming book on social research and big data online for an open review. Matthew is the author of many of my favorite academic works, including this experiment in which he and Duncan Watts test social influence by artificially inverting the popularity of songs in an online music market. He is also the brains behind All Our Ideas, an amazing tool that I have used in much of the work that I have been doing, including “The Governor Asks” in Brazil.

As in the words of Matthew, this is a book “for social scientists that want to do more data science, and it is for data scientists that want to do more social science.” Even though I have not read the entire book, one of the things that has already…

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