Clouds are Not an Option

Data-driven systems do not arrive from nowhere, into the world like magic. Like all technologies their development and deployment follows particular historical trajectories and continuities which are influenced by larger forces. In contrast, most of the research on ’social impact’ has drawn attention to the micro-effects of Big Data: the invasion of personal privacy, their non-transparency, and how they can lead to unfair discrimination between citizens or consumers.

These framings do not recognize the way in which these larger infrastructures are put into place, but rather assume that the clouds, with all the accompanying labor, material and financial practices, are vast, illegible and inevitable. As a result, possibilities for intervention seem to be limited to tweaking algorithms or putting constraints on data collection and processing, leaving the clouds untouched. In this meeting, we hope to sharpen our agendas for research, practice and activism in a way that allows us to identify potential collective inquiries informed by political economic, geopolitical, or techno-infrastructural perspectives to engage the cloud.

Following on from the yearly conference Computers, Privacy and Data Protection taking place that same week, Seda Gürses and Constant have invited activists, researchers and policy makers for a research strategy meeting to discuss the following questions:

- What are the current dominant paradigms in research and policy practice for engaging Big Data, algorithms and the clouds? What are their limitations?
- Whose interests are at stake in the development, ownership, and production of cloud infrastructures?
- What opportunities exist for researchers and policy makers to intervene all along cloud’s production process?
- What methods and techniques can be of use in cross-disciplinary research projects addressing the clouds’ production and impact?

With amongst others: Lina Dencik, Cardiff University (UK), Fernando Diaz, Microsoft Research (US), Joris van Hoboken, IViR, UvA (NL), Seda Gürses, KU Leuven (BE), Martha Poon, Columbia University (US).

Participation is free but places are limited. Please e-mail before January 20 if you would like to take part.

@ WTC25

Boulevard Albert II / Koning Albert II-laan 30