Conference Agenda

RN18_03a: Digital Movements, Activism and Protest
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Paško Bilić, Institute for Development and International Relations
Location: UP.4.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road


Imagining technology and society in AI and Big Data research

Helene Franziska Thaa

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come to outweigh many other technologies in visions of humanity’s future. Discourse about AI, Big Data, their potentials and their applications ranges from utopian visions of a paradisiacal world of abundance (Kelly 1997; Kurzweil 2010) to dystopian images of human control by governments and corporations (cf. Wagner 2015: 17). Transcending popular discourse on future scenarios, this research aims to convey tech developers’ and researchers’ shared imaginaries, orientations and ideals. The development of new technologies is shaped by researchers’ own understanding of technology, its role in society, ideals of its design and use and projections of its future potential. These orientations emerge in the social settings of the groups’ work and are situated in a broader digital culture. Sociohistorical and discourse analyses have described this culture and political ideologies that have shaped the emergence of information technology (Barbrook, Cameron 2001; Fisher 2010; Turner 2008, 2009).

In this study, I am conducting group discussions with individuals working in the realm of AI and AI-related technologies to reveal the collective shaping of understandings and orientations underlying the groups’ work. This complements research on the discourse surrounding Silicon Valley’s most important actors and publications and helps bridge the gap between sociological discourse analysis and research on technological practices. Contrasting the results of the group discussion analysis with predictions and scenarios of technology's impact on society, this approach can contribute to the understanding of how collective orientations and imaginaries of technology and society’s future shape technological research and innovation on an everyday basis, as well as the social processes of their emergence in AI-related fields.

A critical analysis of the UK policies on Artificial Intelligence

Yuqi Na

University of Westminster, United Kingdom

Big Data and AI have become the new buzzword in the UK, sparking new waves of investment and new concerns about the technology. As early as 2013, the UK government has selected robotics and autonomous system as one of the eight key technologies for the government to support. The government has been actively promoting the development of AI and its relevant industry in the UK. This paper will conduct a critical analysis of UK government policies regarding AI. It will try to analyse the government’s main goals in developing AI. What are the understandings of AI’s roles in society? What issues regarding AI are addressed in the policies? What issues are highlighted and what are neglected? This paper will further discuss the question of what could be seen as a ‘good AI society’ and how this society could be addressed by AI policies.

Discourses on Copyright and Cultural Commons as an Example of Communication-based Legality

Ewa Radomska

Jagiellonian University, Poland

The main reason, why the copyright law is widely discussed in the public discourse is an urgent need to find a solution for the social conflict over intellectual property. Such conflict can be treated both as a result of economic tensions between creators, users and "intermediaries”, and as a manifestation of contradictions between legal and social norms regulating reproduction and communication of copyright materials. The latest can be associated with the process of questioning the modern copyright policies, which can be observed in narrations presented mainly by representatives of young creators and Internet users. Some of those narrations, like for example "solidarity in the net" perspective, even challenge the assumptions of possessive individualism embedded in modern copyright, arguing that the conception of copyright as private property fails to adequately reflect the contemporary reality of cultural creativity and cultural commons.

During the presentation, the most important results of the analysis of the Polish discourse on copyright, as well findings from the nationwide survey examining Poles attitudes towards copyright law and communication of copyright materials will be provided. Both types of empirical material will form the basis for the reconstruction of communication-based legality in the area of copyright. Such reconstruction will be carried out taking into account not only the massive development of communication technologies, which is one of the most important causes of “copyright crisis” in most parts of the world, but also the Polish experiences from the communist period, especially the fact that the informal circulation of culture had played important role in overthrowing the communist regime.

Taking Names: Patterns of Meaning and Stereotyping of Social Categories in Antagonistic Discourses on Social Media in Romania and Hungary

Radu Meza1, Andreea Mogos2, Hanna Orsolya Vincze3

1Babes-Bolyai University, Romania; 2Babes-Bolyai University, Romania; 3Babes-Bolyai University, Romania

Facebook Pages of media institutions, public figures, political parties and causes have become arenas for public debate on current issues. As populist discourses and authoritarianism gain momentum throughout Europe, political communication on social media and interaction between people and political and media actors play a key role in the social construction of maps of meaning. The goal of the research is to use a computational discourse analysis approach to identify patterns in Facebook posts messages and subsequent comments as conversational contexts. A dataset of 325.937 posts and 2,56 million comments published in the 2016-2018 timeframe, collected from 536 public Facebook pages of public figures, media institutions, political parties and causes from Romania and Hungary will be analyzed using machine learning word2vec models to obtain word embeddings for the terms referencing social categories such as the poor, welfare recipients, pensioners, young urban professionals, the economic elite, public workers and the diaspora. Formal concept analysis and semantic networks will be used based on threshold values to represent and compare the relationship between the contents of social category stereotypes in the two cultures. An in-depth qualitative analysis of significant patterns identified will focus on the intersecting local frames and discursive strategies, emotionalization, ethnicization and the local political stakes in conjunction with particular strains of populist arguments - understanding populism as a style or political language.