Data, Privacy and Politics

Open City Documentary Festival ran last week, and I attended their excellent panel event A Smart Portrait of London, knowing that visualisations from CASA staff and students (including some lovely work by our MRes students) featured at the end of the evening, but somehow having forgotten that filmmaker Kevin Biderman had interviewed me for his excellent interactive film piece, Data Futures†. I contributed to the discussion led by the panel, talking about how brilliant it will be when Google run our lives*, it only gradually dawning on me that following the group’s rather on-point critique of the challenges around the ethics of big data, a huge image of my face was going to appear talking about how cool datavis is; a rather less critical perspective. I think Kevin has done me a real service in making me look like an enthusiast for the potential of data and visualisation rather than a technocratic cheerleader; but it’ll certainly be worth watching the full piece when it is completed and how my upbeat message is tempered by more cautious commentators. Either way, you can see it above.

If you’d like to hear more about data, privacy and politics, I’m chairing a session of the same name at the Practising Ethics in Built Environment Research conference on Tuesday, featuring Emma Uprichard (an interdisciplinary social scientist based in Warwick), Nathan Lea or the Institute of Health Informatics at UCL, and Jack Stilgoe (from UCL’s Science and Technology Studies department) – or if you’re more interested in the technical/practical side of data visualisation, you might want to consider our new MRes course, which is open for applications until the end of July.

† the full piece is not yet available, but I will link to it here or via my twitter account @sociablephysics when it is
*that’s slightly lacking nuance; it was more a comment about how, to me, “the public” still seem generally happy to trade their data for services, even following the Snowdon GCHQ/NSA revelations

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