This is a rundown of the course themes and structure, in case you want to recreate it at home.
This programme was funded by Co-op Foundation, in partnership with Luminate
Before you dive in, it’s worth noting the videos here are live captures of sessions we ran from our homes during a pandemic; they haven’t been edited or given any post-production treatment. The lighting is variable, there may be cats, sometimes the recordings start very slightly after people have started speaking, and — in my case — you’ll get to see a lot of my spare room and the corner next to the router where I sometimes had to sit when the wifi wasn’t working. But most importantly, we hope you enjoy the wisdom of our collaborators and contributors.
Session One: Power
I gave a short talk (the video is here and the slides are here) exploring the idea that an emerging digital society needs a new social contract. We talked about different ways of shifting power and reflected together on what tools and infrastructure might be needed to do that.
For anyone who wanted to delve further into these issues, we also shared some jumping-off points for reading, watching and listening.
LISTENING: Public Books 101: The Internet podcast series on the history and impact of Silicon Valley (particularly episode 5, featuring Margaret O’Mara and Meredith Broussard)
READING: the Power Chapter in Data Feminism by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein and a short article about research by Abeba Birhane and Vinay Prabhu on the impact of racist image sets in machine learning
WATCHING: an episode or two of the comedy drama Upload, which does a much gentler job than Black Mirror of bringing a range of digital ethics dilemmas to life.
REFLECTING: James Bridle’s Drone Shadow.
Session Two: Narrative
This session was all about communicating big slippery topics with integrity. We really packed it in. Alex Evans, author of The Myth Gap, spoke to us about myth, populism and the importance of collective imagination; Jee Kim, formerly of the Narrative Initiative, was in conversation with Cassie about mobilising people to create change; open government advocate and all-round inspiration Bianca Wylie spoke with Cassie and also wrote a blog post about advocacy, translation and clear, regular communication. And I talked about communicating complex ideas in complicated times and shared the Doteveryone Definition of Done.
After this session, the Fellows had the opportunity to book in smaller, more in-depth sessions on influence mapping and blogging if they wanted.
Session Three: Design and Data Justice
We were delighted to shine a spotlight on Sasha Constanza-Schock’s book Design Justice, by sharing this MIT Media Lab talk, followed by a live Q&A with responsible data expert Tracey Gyateng who gave us a fantastically accessible 101 guide to data and bias.
Session Four: Social Infrastructure
This session brought two very different perspectives on creating social spaces. I had a wonderfully expansive conversation with Shannon Mattern about everything from staircases and vacuum cleaners to libraries and the flow of news, jumping off from her 2018 series on Maintenance and Care in Places Journal, and Harry Hobson from Neighbourly Lab shared his experience of using data and evidence to build healthier communities with better social connection and participation.
Session Five: Social Spaces
We were joined on the day by Hera Hussain, founder of Chayn and researcher and artist Caroline Sinders to talk about how design feminist spaces online. Caroline shared her research into Responsible Design for Digital Communities, and Hera talked about creating a useful, accessible service that is centred in the needs and experiences of victims and survivors of domestic violence. Watch their talks and the Q&A. And virtually, I caught up with Eli Pariser to talk about his work at Civic Signals, exploring how to build better digital public spaces.
Thank you to all of our wonderful contributors, and to all the thinkers, doers and scholars in the space of tech and society who actively share their work and thinking.
The Co-op Foundation is the Co-op’s charity. It helps people challenge inequality and co-operate for change so they can share a fairer future. By funding work in partnership with Luminate, the Foundation’s aim is to provide a backbone for collaboration and a forum for shared learning and educational opportunities, to contribute to a more inclusive digital economy for Manchester and the North West of England.