Responsible Data Science


February 15, 2018 - 15:45



Date: Thursday 15 February 2018

Time: 15:45-18:15

Location: VU Amsterdam – Room Aurora, Ground Floor, Main Building

15:45 Coffee & walk-in

Introduction & Chair: Frank van Harmelen, Professor in Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Department of Computer Science, VU Amsterdam

16:00-16:30 Speaker 1: Gerard Alberts, Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics & Vossius Center, University of Amsterdam on “Social awareness for data scientists”

Abstract: Working towards Responsible data science involves creating a sense of social awareness in our curricula. We do so by not only alerting our students whenever the content caIls out for issues of responsibilty, but also by offering specific courses reflecting on data science. Such courses typically offer historical, philosophical and sociological reflection on the –emerging– discipline and its social relations. A simple first gain is to familiarize our students with other discplines, thus offering the opportunity to avoid  professional short-sightedness. The more fundamental harvest is what philosophy, ethics, media studies, history, sociology have on offer as insights into the social aspects of data science.

A brief example: in his classic Turing’s man, Jay D. Bolter show how computer scientists, and by their example society at large, tend work from the implicit assumption that the world is information. In a similar vein Lisa Gitelman exposes in Always already new and other books how perceiving reality in terms of data has become “only natural” to us.

The illustrations are taken from the courses already in place in the UvA computer science and information science curriculum.

16:30-17:00 Speaker 2: Julia Noordegraaf, Professor of Digital Heritage, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam

17:00-17:30 Speaker 3: José van Dijck, President Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Distinguished University Professor, Utrecht University on Public values in a global data society”

Abstract: Online digital platforms have penetrated every sector of American and Western-European societies, disrupting markets and labor relations, circumventing institutions, and transforming social and civic practices. Platforms steer users’ behavior and social traffic that is increasingly data-driven and algorithmically organized. They are gradually infiltrating in, and clashing with, the institutional processes through which European democratic societies are organized. The emerging ‘platform society’ involves an intense struggle between competing ideological systems and contesting societal actors—market, government and civil society—raising important questions like: Who is or should be responsible and accountable for anchoring public values in a platform society?

Public values include of course privacy, accuracy, safety, and security, but they also pertain to broader societal effects, such as fairness, accessibility, democratic control, and accountability. Public values and the common good are the very stakes in the struggle over the platformization of societies around the globe. At the heart of the online media’s industry’s surge is the battle over information control: who owns the data generated by online social activities?

Biography: José van Dijck is a distinguished university professor at the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands) and the president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Van Dijck’s academic discipline is media studies and her field of interests ‘digital society.’ She received her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, (USA) in 1992. Her work covers a wide range of topics in media theory, media and communication technologies, social media, and digital culture. She is the author of six books, three co-edited volumes and approximately one hundred journal articles and book chapters. Van Dijck’s book The Culture of Connectivity. A Critical History of Social Media (Oxford UP, 2013) was distributed worldwide and was recently translated into Spanish. She is currently working on a book with Thomas Poell and Martijn de Waal titled The Platform Society. Public values in a connective world; the Dutch version was published in November 2016 and the English book is due in 2018. 

17:30 – Networking and drinks