Citizen agency in the datafied society

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Keywords in Technology and Society is the 2021 Speaker Series for the University of Surrey’s cutting-edge research theme.

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Keywords in Technology and Society is the 2021 Speaker Series for the University of Surrey’s cutting-edge research theme – Technology and Society. Through 9 editions in 2021, we will bring to you highlights of Surrey research across our three faculties, and 2 editions hosting external experts. Each of the 9 editions will focus us on one key word in technology and society – and we look forward to having you join us!


Stefania Milan - "Citizen Agency in the Datafied Society"

Stefania Milan is Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture. Her research explores the interplay between digital technology and participation, and activism and social movements in particular, cyberspace governance, and data epistemologies. Stefania is the author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013; released in paperback in March 2016), and co-author of Media/Society (Sage, 2011). Her work has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Information, Communication & Society, the International Journal of Communication, Internet & Policy, the Internet Policy Review, Social Media + Society.

Stefania represents non-commercial users in the Council of the Generic Names Supporting Organization of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and serves in the Working Group ‘An Internet Free and Secure’ of the Freedom Online Coalition, where she contributes to develop guidelines for cybersecurity decision-making. As a consultant she worked for, amongst others, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, where she contributed to the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe, and the European Commission.

“Citizen agency in the datafied society” explores the evolution of citizenship in the age of big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Stunning technological advancements increasingly raise concerns about the implications for civil rights and citizen sovereignty: think of invasive smart city technologies and the data infrastructure devised to curbe virus diffusion in the COVID-19 pandemic. These technologies are frequently rolled out in the absence of public debate, without adequate regulation and outside of established mechanisms of democratic oversight, exposing citizens to serial abuse. Dialoguing with critical data studies and political sociology, this talk surveys how the expansion of intelligent systems into society alters the perception and exercise of political agency, focusing in particular on the consolidation of governance by data infrastructure and the emergence of grassroots responses such as data activism.

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