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Radical Digital Citizenship - What's Digital Sociology's contribution

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Radical Digital Citizenship - What's Digital Sociology's contribution

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My slides for this event:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/towards-a-radical-digital-citizenship-in-digital-education-tickets-32496084664
I outline my interpretation of digital sociology. I argue it needs to become mainstream & it can enable a more ethical interventionist citizenship.

My slides for this event:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/towards-a-radical-digital-citizenship-in-digital-education-tickets-32496084664
I outline my interpretation of digital sociology. I argue it needs to become mainstream & it can enable a more ethical interventionist citizenship.

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Radical Digital Citizenship - What's Digital Sociology's contribution

  1. 1. Oxford Internet Institute Radical Digital Citizenship – What Digital Sociology’s contribution? Huw Davies @huwcdavies @BSADigitalSoc
  2. 2. Oxford Internet Institute 3 Takeaways: 1. Current educational provisions (in schools & colleges) are woefully inadequate 1. We need to make digital sociology (a ‘whole stack’ critique) mainstream. 2. Beyond critique, digital sociology x coding skills = ethical challenges to platform capitalism
  3. 3. Oxford Internet Institute GCSE Computing
  4. 4. Oxford Internet Institute Can’t we just teach kids to code? • There is also growing concern that the digital economy - far from being the meritocracy that is suggested in the discourse about the 4th industrial revolution - is becoming a ‘ruthless stratifier’ (Posner, 2017). This is because the dominant mode of production for the digital economy is becoming ‘platform capitalism’ (Srnicek, 2016) – a winner takes all system (Kenney and Zysman 2016) that allows the owners of platforms to operate exploitative employment practices that harness the affordances and fragilities of immaterial labour (Friedman 2014; Hill 2015; Leyshon et al. 2016). • One of the myths of anti-immigration discourse is that if we close our borders natives will no longer have to compete with foreigners for jobs. But platform capitalism’s use of immaterial labour to create a transnational playing field (so that jobs with digital outputs such as software engineering can be put out to tender to an international workforce) means young people will be competing in global market place while having to pay for local living expenses. • Therefore to avoid their exploitation we can’t just rely on teaching young people to code or skills and literacies they need to be thinking about they can use these skills to challenge the architectures the of digital economy’s dominant social technical structures. (Davies & Eynon, forthcoming)
  5. 5. Oxford Internet Institute OCR A Level Sociology
  6. 6. Oxford Internet Institute Mission statement for (digital) sociology? Sociology has an opportunity for renewal by redefining to the relationship between the micro and the macro. Algorithms, executables, searches, clicks, posts, tweets, likes etc. are micro events that have social consequences at the scale of what Bourdieu (1984) calls ‘structuring structures’ (including class, race, and gender) that are stratified by the political economy. When Sociology synthesises digital methods capable of capturing these micro events with its sophisticated theories of society & power it is uniquely equipped to study the architecture of these socio-technical structures. Davies (2017)
  7. 7. Oxford Internet Institute Take apart platform capitalism’s power cake (the whole stack) Ingredients: • Code • Infrastructure • Capital investment • Ideology Cooking time = network effects
  8. 8. Oxford Internet Institute What does this power cake offer its chefs? • Monopolies of extraction • The power to conflate media platforms with advertising platforms • Monopoly on valuable research data • Ability to provide and monetise public services • Power bases from which to infiltrate national politics • Guardianship of knowledge
  9. 9. Oxford Internet Institute Masters of the Universe?
  10. 10. Oxford Internet Institute Code
  11. 11. Oxford Internet Institute Code
  12. 12. Oxford Internet Institute
  13. 13. Oxford Internet Institute Infrastructure
  14. 14. Oxford Internet Institute Capital Investment Source: https://www.crunchbase.com/person/peter-thiel/investments
  15. 15. Oxford Internet Institute Ideology • Technological determinism/solutionism • Meritocracy • Trickledown economics • Social Darwinism • White male supremacy/ignorance of where our wealth came from
  16. 16. Oxford Internet Institute 3 Takeaways: 1. Current educational provisions (in schools & colleges) are woefully inadequate 1. We need to make digital sociology (a ‘whole stack’ critique) mainstream. 1. Beyond critique, digital sociology + coding skills x network effects = ethical challenges to platform capitalism

Editor's Notes

  • Inadequate existing provisions

    Addresses the whole of the digital sociology’s agenda with two words: “cultural issues”.
  • No because platform capitalism
  • This a start – but it’s turn of the century media studies rather sociology
  • A quote from my NMS paper
  • Digital sociology in practise
  • Do we want these guys to be Masters of the Universe?
  • Like sociology computing relies on knowledge representations systems or ‘ontologies’.

    But in computer science the assumptions and subjective decisions built into these ontologies can be integrated into the functionality of code without any scrutiny.

    Here’s a v crude ontology designed by an undergraduate who aims to translate into algorithmic fact his definition of race.


  • And a more sophisticated ontology from the BBC that categorises its types of news.
  • Badly designed systems can create racist code.

    Digital sociology needs to understand the power cake beginning at the level of code.
  • TBL made the infrastructure of the web free and open source.

    Once it’s gone it’s lost for ever.

    Digital sociology needs to committed to net-neutrality
  • Tech industry is becoming a oligarchic network.

    Mutual interest expressed as capita investment.

    Digital sociology should be mapping, exposing and scrutinising these networks – follow the money as they say.
  • These are the ideas that sustain platform capitalism.

    This is sociology’s territory – this is where traditional and digital sociology can draw strength from their convergence.
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