Yhdistyksen kokous ja pikkujoulut 18.12.2019 – Annual General Meeting 18.12.2019

rp-kuvasomeen-xmasHyvä Rajapinta ry:n jäsen,
(scroll down for English)

Olet lämpimästi tervetullut yhdistyksen vuosikokoukseen 18.12.2019 kello 15:00 Metsätalolle Kuluttajatutkimuskeskuksen kahvihuoneeseen (Unioninkatu 40 C, Helsinki – opasteet rakennuksen aulasta).

Yhdistyksen kokouksessa käsitellään sääntömääräiset asiat, mm. toimintasuunnitelma 2020 sekä uusien jäsenten valitseminen hallitukseen. Materiaalit ovat nähtävillä kokouksessa sekä myöhemmin tällä viikolla yhdistyksen verkkosivuilla tässä blogipostauksessa.

Yhdistyksen vuosikokouksessa käsitellään seuraavat asiat:

1. Kokouksen avaus
2. Valitaan kokouksen puheenjohtaja, sihteeri, kaksi pöytäkirjantarkastajaa sekä varapöytäkirjantarkastaja ja kaksi ääntenlaskijaa
3. Todetaan kokouksen laillisuus ja päätösvaltaisuus
4. Hyväksytään kokouksen työjärjestys
5. Esitetään tilinpäätös, vuosikertomus ja toiminnantarkastajien lausunto vuodelta 2018
6. Päätetään tilinpäätöksen vahvistamisesta ja vastuuvapauden myöntämisestä hallitukselle 2018 sekä muille vastuuvelvollisille
7. Vahvistetaan toimintasuunnitelma sekä tulo- ja menoarvio vuodelle 2020
8. Vahvistetaan varsinaisten jäsenten liittymis- ja jäsenmaksun suuruus sekä kannattajajäsenten liittymis- ja kannattajajäsenmaksun suuruus
9. Valitaan hallitus 8 §:n mukaan
10. Valitaan yksi toiminnantarkastaja ja varatoiminnantarkastaja
11. META

Yhdistyksen säännöt täällä.

Mikäli olet kiinnostunut yhdistyksen hallituksen jäsenyyden hakemisesta, mutta et pääse paikalle kokoukseen, otathan yhteyttä ennen kokousta chair@rajapinta.co. Vastaamme myös mielellämme kysymyksiin aiheesta!

Ystävällisin terveisin,
Hallitus

After the meeting it’s Pikkujoulu time! See the FB event

Dear Rajapinta member,

We invite you to our annual general meeting on Dec 18, 2019 at 3pm sharp (at Metsätalo, Centre for Consumer Society Research premises, Unioninkatu 40 C, Helsinki – entrance in the lobby).

During the meeting, we will discuss topics as stated in the association’s charter, e.g. as the annual plan for 2020 as well as electing new members to the executive committee. The materials (in Finnish) will be available later this week on the association’s website.

If you consider applying for a position in the executive committee but cannot attend the meeting, please contact us at chair@rajapinta.co. We are also happy to answer any questions regarding committee work!

Best wishes,
Executive committee

After the meeting it’s Pikkujoulu time! See the FB event

Rajapinnan opinnäytetyöpalkinnot 2019 myönnetty digitaalisen kulttuurin ja datatieteen pro graduille

thesis-pile-kuvitus-flickr-organprinter
Photo: (cc) organprinter Flickr

Digitaalisten yhteiskuntatieteiden yhdistys Rajapinta ry on myöntänyt kaksi opinnäytetyöpalkintoa akateemisen vuoden 2018–2019 aikana valmistuneille opinnäytetöille. Rajapinta jakaa vuosittaisen palkinnon nyt jo kolmatta kertaa. Tänä vuonna palkintoa haki kaikkiaan kymmenen työtä.

Palkinnon saivat:

Molemmat työt edustavat Rajapinta ry:n ytimessä olevaa digitaalista otetta yhteiskuntatieteellisten kysymysten ratkaisemisessa. Ne ovat laadukkaita, tieteidenvälisiä töitä, jotka ottavat uusia rohkeita hyppyjä teoreettisten, metodologisten tai epistemologisten raja-aitojen yli. Arviointiraati arvosti myös töiden ajankohtaisia, yhteiskunnallisia aiheita sekä omaperäistä otetta niiden tarkastelussa.

Toivasen tutkimus selvittää, miten suomalainen vastamedia käyttää ja kehystää valtamedian uutisia, sekä soveltaa ohjattua koneoppimista eri kehystämisen tapojen tunnistamiseen. Tulokset osoittavat, että kehystyksessä kannattaa sisällön lisäksi tarkastella tekstin rakennetta. Työ tarttuu mielenkiintoiseen ja ajankohtaiseen aiheeseen ja tuottaa lisää ymmärrystä siitä, miten mediajulkisuuden dynamiikkaa voi tutkia laskennallisten menetelmien avulla. Työ keskustelee kahden eri tieteenalan kirjallisuuden kanssa ottamalla yhteiskuntatieteellisen käsitteen ja soveltamalla menestyksekkäästi koneoppimisen menetelmiä sen ratkaisemiseksi. Työ on selkeä esimerkki “Rajapinta-alan perustutkimuksesta”, jollaista arviointiraati peräänkuuluttaa lisää.

Vaahensalon tutkimuksen lähtökohtana on uusi käsite ’toiseuttava verkkokeskustelu’, jota määrittelemällä yritetään löytää vihapuheen käsitettä neutraalimpi ja monipuolisempi tutkimuksellinen tarkastelukulma. Tutkimuksessa yhdistetään mediakulttuurin ja kielentutkimuksen sekä jossain määrin sosiaalipsykologista näkökulmaa. Työssä tarkastellaan digitaalisten aineistojen käyttöliittymiä ja pohditaan niitä kriittisesti käyttämällä Suomi24-aineistoa ja Korp-työkalua esimerkkinä. Työssä osoitetaan konkreettisesti, miten digitaalista analyysiä voi tehdä määrällisesti ja argumentoidaan samalla laadullisen tutkimusotteen selittävää voimaa. Usein digitaalista yhteiskuntatiedettä vaivaa tietynlainen muutoksen nopeus ja siitä aiheutuva käsitteellinen köyhyys, mihin tämä gradu tarjoaa oivallisen kontribuution.

Rajapinta ry. toivottaa onnea palkituille ja kiittää kaikkia osallistuneita!

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Rajapinta palkitsee vuosittain erinomaisia pro gradu tai diplomitöitä, joiden aihepiiri kytkeytyy yhdistyksen tavoitteisiin: yhteiskuntatieteellisesti pohjautuneita töitä teknologiasta tai teknologiaa hyödyntäviä yhteiskuntatieteellisiä tutkimuksia. Yhden palkinnon arvo on 500 euroa. Yhdistyksen toimintaa ja siten myös tätä palkintoa rahoittaa Koneen Säätiö.

Arviointiraatiin kuuluivat: Veikko Eranti (HY), Merja Koskela (VY), Matti Nelimarkka (HY/Aalto), Thomas Olsson (TAU), Merja Porttikivi (HY/Aalto), Risto Sarvas (Aalto) ja Anu Sivunen (JYU). Kunkin työn arvioi kaksi raatilaista, jotka valittiin niin, että mahdolliset eturistiriidat, ohjaussuhteet ja kollegasuhteet vältettiin. Töiden arviointi perustui niiden akateemiseen laatuun sekä siihen, miten hyvin ne toteuttivat Rajapinta ry:n toiminnan painopisteitä, jotka oli mainittu myös palkintokutsussa. Työn tekijän aktiivisuus Rajapinta-yhdistyksessä ei ollut arvioinnissa etu eikä haitta.

Facebook-kirppikset ja käytettyjen vaatteiden myyntisivustot muuttivat shoppailua – kuluttajia ohjaa tuotteiden laatu ja jälleenmyyntiarvo

Tiedätkö, mikä on ollut viime vuosien nopeimmin kasvava vaatekategoria? Käytetyt vaatteet. Verkossa toimivat käytettyjen vaatteiden jälleenmyyntipalvelut ja sosiaalisen median kiihdyttämä kirpputoritoiminta ovat lisänneet kuluttajien kiinnostusta myydä omia käytettyjä (ja jopa käyttämättömiä) vaatteitaan ja ostaa niitä muilta. Selvityksen mukaan käytettyjen vaatteiden markkinan kasvun taustalla ovat ennen kaikkea nuoret kuluttajat, joiden kiinnostus käytettyjen vaatteiden ostamista ja myymistä kohtaan saattaa jopa vähentää kiinnostusta ostaa vaatteita uutena.

Olemassa oleva tutkimus tarkastelee käytettyjen tuotteiden ostamista tyypillisesti joko säästämisen tai ympäristöystävällisyyden näkökulmasta. Vaikka nämä ovat tärkeitä syitä ostaa vaatteita käytettynä, halusimme selvittää, mitä muita motiiveja käytettyjen vaatteiden ostamiseen liittyy. Valitsimme tutkimuskohteeksi käytetyt luksusvaatteet ja -asusteet, joiden ostamiseen uutena liittyy erityisen paljon hedonistisia ja symbolisia motiiveja.

Haastattelimme 22 kuluttajaa, jotka ovat hiljattain ostaneet luksustuotteita toisilta kuluttajilta. Kaikki haastateltavat olivat suomalaisia 25–40-vuotiaita naisia, ja heihin oltiin yhteydessä luksusvaatteisiin ja -asusteisiin keskittyvän Facebook-kirpputorin kautta. Haastatteluaineistoa tarkasteltiin ns. ostostyylien näkökulmasta.

Tutkimuksessa huomattiin, että käytettyjen luksustuotteiden ostajia määrittää erityisesti hinta-laatutietoisuus sekä arvostus käytetyn tuotteen kaunista ikääntymistä ja sen laatua kohtaan. Laatutietoisuutta kuvailtiin esimerkiksi näin: “Brändin todellisen laadun ja käsityön näkee mielestäni vasta käytettynä hankituista käsilaukuista. Laadukkuus kestää aikaa.”

Lisäksi haastatteluaineistosta tunnistettiin uusi ostostyyli: jälleenmyyntiarvotietoisuus. Muun muassa tällaiset lausunnot kuvasivat kyseistä ostostyyliä: “Ostin tämän Chanelin huomatessani, että klassisten luksustuotteiden hinnat nousevat jatkuvasti. Myyn sen kyllä jossain vaiheessa, ja tiedän, että tulen saamaan siitä 50% enemmän mitä alun perin itse maksoin.” Nämä kuluttajat kokivat olevansa vain yksi useista omistajista tuotteen elinkaaren aikana. He uskoivat, että ostamalla joko ikonisia tai nousussa olevia brändejä he voivat saada maksamansa hinnan takaisin jälleenmyynnin yhteydessä.

Vaateteollisuuden korkean ympäristökuormittavuuden huomioon ottaen tutkimuslöydökset ovat kannustavia; Ostaessaan käytettyjä tuotteita kuluttajat kiinnittävät huomiota tuotteen laatuun, kestävyyteen ja jälleenmyyntiarvoon. Verkossa toimivat kulutustavaroiden jälleenmyyntisivustot ja -palvelut ovat keskeisessä asemassa kulutustottumusten muutoksessa. Ilman toimivia käytetyn tuotteen markkinoita kuluttajat eivät löydä itseään kiinnostavia tuotteita ja voi luottaa, että saavat omat tuotteensa myytyä eteenpäin. Alan toimijoiden tulee kiinnittää huomiota tuotteiden laadun esilletuomiseen ja oikean kuluttajasegmentin löytämiseen.

Tutkimus on julkaistu International Journal of Consumer Studies -lehden marraskuun numerossa: Linda Turunen & Essi Pöyry (2019). Shopping with the Resale Value in Mind: A Study on Second‐Hand Luxury Consumers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 43(6), 549–556.

Back to school 2019

Here are some courses which might be relevant for Rajapinta people across various Finnish universities. The list was crowdsourced from Rajapinta email list, therefore there may be even more interesting courses for you in your home institution as well.

Nordic Perspectives on Algorithmic Systems: Notes from a Workshop on Metaphors and Concepts

The first meeting in our NOS-HS workshop series Nordic Perspectives on Algorithmic Systems: Concepts, Methods, and Interventions was organized on May 22 and 23 in Stockholm. The goal of the workshop series is to develop a Nordic approach to critical algorithm studies, with the first workshop focusing on coming up with metaphors and concepts that would be useful for pushing debates about algorithmic systems forward. In addition, the workshop series aims to establish a network in the Nordics for those interested in the topic of algorithm studies.

We think it is safe to say that the first workshop took some quite successful steps towards achieving these goals. We had an intense two days of brainstorming and exchanging ideas with 16 participants from Helsinki, Tampere, Stockholm and Copenhagen, representing a multitude of different fields ranging from Human-Computer Interaction and Software Development to Sociology and Philosophy of Science.

On the first day, we heard short presentations from each participant, along with introductions to specific concepts/metaphors they consider relevant for approaching and thinking about algorithmic systems. On the basis of these discussions, we collated conceptual maps of various ways to conceive of algorithms. On the second day, we discussed in pairs articles which each participant had brought along as examples of inspiring work. Further, we had a discussion about optimistic/constructive and pessimistic/critical approaches to discussing technology.

Here  are selected takeaways from our discussions, including both conceptual approaches to algorithmic systems, as well as thoughts on how to approach the debate more generally:

Control, care, and empowerment

One central issue in thinking about algorithmic systems concerns the motivations and justifications for the use of algorithms. In this respect, the distinctions between control, care and empowerment were brought into discussion as useful notions for elucidating the different logics of using algorithms. While the logic of control relates to algorithmic surveillance and the aim of governing or managing behavior, the aim inherent in the logic of care is that of supporting certain forms of behavior rather than preventing others. For instance, we discussed the work of content moderators on discussion forums, where moderators wish that automated methods could liberate them to work on fostering and guiding discussion instead of the current focus of deciding what content to delete and what to allow. The important point here is that these different aims encompass divergent justifications for the use of algorithms: while surveillance as control is often justified in terms of necessity and protection, the legitimacy of algorithmic care rests on the thriving and well-being of its subjects. Contrasting with these aims, the logic of empowerment justifies the use of algorithms in terms of performance increases and efficiency. The aim of empowerment is then grounded on ideals such as progress and development. Although empowerment aims at providing people with increased capabilities for action, its underlying principle of optimization can also become self-serving, with people turning into material in the quest for optimizing shallow and cheap quantitative metrics.

Optimization and resilience

The concept of optimization was discussed in particular by reference to the work of Halpern and others [1] on smart cities. In developing algorithms with the aim of optimization, improving the system’s performance in terms of quantified metrics can become an end in itself, which supersedes conscious planning and deliberation in organizing action. Optimal performance carries with it a rhetorical force, which can work to legitimate algorithmic management of increasingly many aspects of life. As such, as Orit Halpern and others note, optimization serves to justify the use of notions such as “smartness” in relation to systems which seek to find optimal solutions to predefined problems. Thus, from the perspective of optimization, the crucial question to ask about algorithmic systems might not concern their performance in the technical sense, but rather the choices made when defining the system’s goals and means of finding optimal solutions.

Another notion connected to the idea of autonomously operating “smart” systems was that of resilience, which denotes the system’s capacity to change in order to survive through external perturbations [1]. While the stability or robustness of algorithmic systems is their ability to maintain fixed functioning upon external influences, resilience concerns the temporal dimension and the lifespan of these systems, and their ability to evolve and adapt their behavior to “live” through changing environmental conditions. The resilience of an algorithmic system then depends not only on the ability to find optimal solutions to problems, but also on the ability to maintain the system’s operation. In this work, human efforts in repair and maintenance are likely to be crucial.

Repair, temporality, and decay of software

A recurrent theme concerned algorithms as implemented in software, and the temporal dimension in the life-course of software systems. The issue of the temporality of software becomes central through the gradual decay of legacy technologies and the care required to keep them operational. Repair work is also involved as part of the lifetime of algorithms, with hardware and software systems implemented in evolving programming languages and as part of divergent organizational settings, consequently requiring constant maintenance and monitoring [cf. 2]. The notion of repair connects with multiple themes discussed during the workshop, for instance optimizing algorithmic processes and the role of human agency in algorithmic systems. As such, human-algorithm interactions can be thought of as involving not only a continuous process of interpretation, but also work in correcting and explaining errors and idiosyncrasies in results, coming up with workaround solutions to adapt tools to diverging goals, and maintaining software and hardware implementations operational.

Human agency and gaming in algorithmic systems

One of the topics brought up was the question of human agency in relation to the algorithmic systems. We discussed that systems should be rehumanized by dragging the human work going into these systems back to the spotlight, making visible the labor that is required to maintain, train and develop different kinds of systems. On the other hand, algorithms are also used to limit and make possible certain forms of actions raising questions about what people can do with technology to expand their possibilities, and how technology can also be used to limit the potential of humans. One suggested way to approach the relationship that algorithms have with humans was to focus on the interaction between them – we might learn a lot from observing empirically what happens when humans encounter algorithmic systems.

Further, we discussed human agency towards these systems through concepts of games and algorithmic resistance. These approaches highlight the human potential to find vulnerabilities or spaces of intervention, and to act against or otherwise manipulate systems, be it for personal gain or with an activist aim of creating a more just world. Whatever the reason for acting against the system is, a question arises: What does it mean to win against an algorithm? So-called victories against these systems may be short-lived, as games or resistance do not happen in a vacuum: It is possible to win a battle but lose the war. This discussion highlighted how algorithmic systems, just like human beings, are situated in the wider society and its networks of relationships.

Power, objectivity, and bureaucracy

The notions of power and objectivity of algorithmic systems were discussed on multiple different occasions during the workshop. These concepts are often brought up in the critical data and algorithmic studies literature as well, with critics arguing against utopian hopes of unbiased knowledge production [e.g. 3], and pointing to the far-reaching societal consequences of algorithmic data processing and classification [e.g. 4]. However, during the workshop, the questions of objectivity and power of algorithms were themselves questioned. For instance, debates about the power of algorithms would benefit from increased clarity, which could potentially be achieved by connecting the literature with extant accounts of power in political science, such as Stephen Lukes’ [5] theory of the three faces of power.

Similarly, the issue of algorithmic objectivity can take on several different meanings depending on whether the discussion focuses on hidden biases in data production, or for instance the mechanical objectivity [6] of algorithmic procedures. One particularly interesting metaphor for thinking about issues of objectivity in algorithmic systems is that of bureaucracy [e.g. 7], and the sense of objectivity imbued on action and decision-making through the establishment of rigid, explicit, and seemingly impartial rules [8]. The quest for such procedural objectivity [9] is likely to be present in efforts to automate decision-making in algorithmic systems as well. Comparing the effects of explicit rules on power relations within bureaucracies with algorithmic procedures in organizations could be one way to get a grasp on how power works within algorithmic systems.

Optimism, pessimism, and the notion of algorithm

Given the multitude of different approaches present during the workshop, the question arose of the usefulness of the notion of “algorithm” itself in thinking about the technological and social phenomena we are interested in. While algorithms and algorithmic systems were the backdrop for our discussion, it became evident that the phenomena we were discussing are at once broader and more multifaceted. While we started with algorithmic systems, we ended up discussing themes such as collaboration and preconditions of human work, motivations and justifications for action, maintenance and design of technology, temporality, and discontinuities between interpretive and formal processes. This is likely as it should be, given that the aim of the workshop was to think about metaphors for discussing algorithms. However, the variety and scope of the perspectives testifies to the fuzziness of the notion of algorithm, and calls attention to the need for delineating and clarifying the central concepts which figure in discussions about algorithmic systems and their connections to more longstanding discussions in various disciplines.

Related to these observations, our discussion on the second day about the critical/pessimistic and constructive/optimistic attitudes for approaching algorithms called attention to the various ways in which understandings of technology can be oversimplifying. In particular, the issue of “naive” optimism and technological solutionism, often attributed to the developers of technology in critical treatments, was called into question. While critical approaches are indeed important, self-sustained discussions about the limitations and problems of technology hold the danger of oversimplifying the understanding of the “other side”. Such simplifications are unlikely to foster fruitful engagement with communities engaged in developing new technologies. For us, this emphasizes the importance of reflexive thinking that take seriously the risk of  “naive” criticism of critical accounts of technology and does not try to situate social scientists as outside of the troubles of algorithmic systems.

By: Juho Pääkkönen, Jesse Haapoja & Airi Lampinen

The next workshop in the series will take place in the autumn in Copenhagen, with a focus on approaches and methods.

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[1] Halpern, O. et al. (2017). The smartness mandate: Notes towards a critique. Grey Room 68.

[2] Jackson, S. (2014). Rethinking repair. In T. Gillespie, P. Boczkowski and K. Foot (eds.), Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society. MIT Press.

[3] Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. Boczkowski and K. Foot (eds.), Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society. MIT Press.

[4] Ananny, M. (2016). Toward an Ethics of Algorithms: Convening, Observation, Probability, and Timeliness. Science, Technology & Human Values 41(1).

[5] Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A radical view. London and New York: Macmillan.

[6] Daston, L. and Galison, P. (1992). The Image of Objectivity. Representations 40.

[7] Crozier, M. (1963). The bureaucratic phenomenon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[8] Porter, T. (1995). Trust in numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton University Press.

[9] Douglas, H. (2004). The Irreducible Complexity of Objectivity. Synthese 138.

Digital technologies, data analytics and social inequality

We were recently involved in organizing a working group on what might be called “digital inequalities” at the Annual Finnish Sociology Conference. Based on the working group, we reflect on the relationship between digital technologies and social inequalities, and on the role of critical scholarship in addressing the issue.

To paraphrase Kranzberg’s (1986) well-known first law of technology, while digital technologies and their capability to produce data are not a force for good or ill, they are not neutral either. With the increasing use of data analytics and new digital technologies, as well as the ever-intensifying hype over them, it is extremely important to examine the connection between technological and social divides

A rich body of research on “digital divides” has focused on the issues of unequal access to technology and differences in its usage (e.g. van Dijk, 2013). With the aim of expanding the view beyond the ideas of access and usage, Halford and Savage (2010) have proposed the concept of “digital social inequality”, emphasizing the interlinking between social disadvantages and digital technologies. This means that the development, use and effects of digital technologies are often related to social categories such as gender, race/ethnicity, age and social class

Examining the divisions connected to the use of data, Andrejevic (2014) points out “the big data divide”, a concept with which he refers to the asymmetric relationship between those who are able to produce and use large quantities of data, and those who are the targets of data collection. This divide highlights not only access to data and the means of making use of data, but also differential access to ways of thinking about and using data. D’lgnazio and Klein (2019) further discuss the power structures inherent in the collection and usage of data, pointing out that these structures are often made invisible and thus taken as an objective viewpoint of how “the numbers speak for themselves”. Through many empirical examples D’lgnazio and Klein demonstrate that even the choices of what topics data is collected on, analyzed and communicated rest on power relations in terms of whose voices and interest are represented and whose are marginalized

Partly inspired by the above-mentioned research, we recently organized a working group at the Annual Finnish Sociology Conference, The Shifting Divides of Our Digital Lives, to discuss old and new forms of inequalities, the reactions they provoke, and their societal consequences. To guide our presenters, we posed some additional questions: What hinders or facilitates equal participation in the digital society? How are social institutions adapting to digital change? What forms of civic engagement and activism arise given digital society’s asymmetries?

Here we summarize selected findings of presentations that provided insights into how digital technologies and the use of data analytics shape our differential opportunities for social participation even when we, as citizens, might not be fully aware of it.

In her presentation Contested technology: Behavior-based insurance in critical data studies, Maiju Tanninen (University of Tampere) pointed out the many concerns that data studies literature has identified in connection to the use of self-tracking technologies in personalized insurance. These include the possibility of data-based discrimination, heightened surveillance, and control of clients’ behavior. However, Tanninen argued that while these critiques paint a rather dystopian picture of the field, they are largely focused on the US context, they fail to differentiate between insurance types, and are often lacking in empirical engagement. In practice, the use of self-tracking devices for the development of personalized insurance looks often doubtful, amongst other reasons due to poor quality of data. Tanninen pointed out that in order for critical research on the topic to be constructive, and to better understand the benefits of these technologies and offer new insights, we need empirically grounded research in the European and more specifically Finnish contexts.

In his presentation Ageing migrants’ use of digitalised public services: Ethnographic study, Nuriiar Safarov (University of Helsinki) emphasized the need for intersectional perspective in studying access and utilization of e-services among different groups of migrants. In his doctoral project, Safarov examines the impact of the digitalization of public services in Finland on the group of older Russian-speaking migrants who permanently live in Finland. Safarov pointed out that this specific group of migrants may face particular barriers to access e-services not only because of their age, but also because of lack of language skills and social networks. Empirical work on such groups can, in turn, offer insight into the interplay of digital-specific and more ‘traditional’ social divides.

In her presentation Facebook Groups interaction affecting access to nature, Annamari Martinviita (University of Oulu) compared a popular Finnish Facebook group on the topic of national parks, and the official information website of Metsähallitus. Martinviita demonstrated that while both platforms might aim to be inclusive when they advertise access and exploration of nature, in practice they might produce various divides by means of presenting and constructing ‘correct’ ways of visiting national parks.

In their presentation Political orientation, political values and digital divides – How does political orientation associate with the political use of social media? Ilkka Koiranen and colleagues (University of Turku) demonstrated that while social media provides new ways for political participation, there are significant differences between political parties in how their supporters use social media for political purposes. The research was based on a nationally representative survey dataset. The results showed that newer political movements with younger and more educated supporters representing post-material values are more successful in social media, echoing also previous findings in the digital divides research.

In his presentation How data activism allies with firms to seek equal participation in the digital society, Tuukka Lehtiniemi (University of Helsinki) discussed the case of MyData, a data activism initiative aiming to enhance citizens’ agency by providing them with the means to control the use of their personal data, in an attempt to address injustices related equal societal participation. Various interest parties are involved in MyData, including technology-producing firms that seek market and policy support for their products. Lehtiniemi argued that particular ways to frame MyData’s objectives are employed to support this involvement. While it is important to develop alternative imaginaries for the data economy, a central question remains to be resolved: how to move from abstract concepts such as citizen centricity and data agency to actual alternatives that challenge dominant imaginaries of data’s value.

These presentations highlight that the promises of equal participation so often associated with digital technologies and use of data analytics are often challenging to reclaim in practice. If approached without care, they may reproduce and extend existing patterns of biases, injustices or discrimination.

Thus, it is important to keep in mind that as digital technologies and data analytics are forged by humans in specific societal settings and power relations, these technologies contain traces of societal conditions in which they are coined and manufactured. Consequently, it is salient to explore what kinds of potentially biased assumptions are embedded in these technologies used so extensively in today’s society. This is why we think that it is urgent to advance critical approaches and support collective citizen actions to create and implement technologies and data analytics that improve opportunities for all

At the same time, as some of the presentations in the working group also indicated, criticism by itself may not lead to constructive input in the development and usage of digital technologies. We should therefore not only point out the ways how digital technologies and data analytics, their current usage, and the potential future trajectories can bring up or exacerbate societal problems. In addition, we should engage in conceptual and empirical research that can help identify preferable alternatives and steer technological developments toward societally more desirable and sustainable ones

By: Marta Choroszewicz, Marja Alastalo and Tuukka Lehtiniemi

Choroszewicz is a Postdoc Researcher at University of Eastern Finland, Alastalo is a University Lecturer at University of Eastern Finland, and Lehtiniemi is a Doctoral Candidate at University of Helsinki.

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References:

Andrejevic, M (2014) The big data divide. International Journal of Communication, 8: 1673–1689. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/2161

D’lgnazio, C and Klein, L (2019) Data Feminism. MIT Press Open. Available at: https://bookbook.pubpub.org/data-feminism

Halford, S and Savage, M (2010) Reconceptualising digital social inequality. Information, Communication and Society 13(7): 937–955. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2010.499956

Kranzberg, M (1986) Technology and history: “Kranzberg’s laws“. Technology and Culture, 27(3): 544–560. https://doi.org/10.2307/3105385

Van Dijk, JAGM (2013) A theory of the digital divide. In: Ragnedda, M., & Muschert, G. W. (Eds.) The digital divide: The Internet and social inequality in international perspective. Routledge, 36–51.