Redefining Benefits for Future Workers

Speaker: Carmen Rojas, Rachel Schneider, Tamara K. Nopper, and Aiha Nguyen
Date recorded: Oct 3, 2018
Carmen Rojas, Rachel Schneider, and Tamara K. Nopper in conversation with Aiha Nguyen about the intersection of fintech and credit and benefit systems for low-wage workers.

Data & Society welcomes The Workers Lab Co-Founder and CEO Carmen Rojas; Entrepreneur and Author Rachel Schneider; and Professor, Researcher, and Activist Tamara K. Nopper to discuss the intersection of fintech and credit and benefit systems for low-wage workers with Data & Society Labor Engagement Lead Aiha Nguyen.

Rojas and Schneider both focus on the financial challenges facing precarious low-wage workers–including “gig” workers–and how these workers might need different benefits than have traditionally been provided, like retirement. Nopper offers insight into the world of credit scoring and data, analyzing how fintech “innovation” intersects with race, class, and gender wealth gaps. Nguyen is an organizer who works to bridge research and practice, expanding understanding of technological systems’ impact on work. Together, they discuss questions such as:

How will current and projected income volatility in the gig economy change available workplace benefits?
What role could fintech play on the future of work? Can workers be a part of shaping that future?
What data will low-income working families need to share in order to have access to capital–and will it be worth it?

Dr. Carmen Rojas is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Workers Lab, an organization that invests in experiments and innovation to build power for working people in the 21st century. For more than 20 years, Carmen has worked with foundations, financial institutions, and non-profits to improve the lives of working people across the United States. Carmen currently sits on the boards of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Neighborhood Funders Group, General Service Foundation, JOLT, Certification Associates, and on the Advisory Boards of Fund Good Jobs and Floodgate Academy. Carmen holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Fulbright Scholar in 2007.

Rachel Schneider is the Omidyar Network Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program and co-author of The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty. Rachel’s research has been featured in the nation’s top publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. Though she began her career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co., Rachel credits her commitment to the potential for innovative finance to solve major social problems from her days as a VISTA Volunteer (now AmeriCorps). She holds a J.D./M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.

Tamara K. Nopper has a PhD in Sociology and her teaching and research focuses on the intersection of economic, racial, and gender inequality, with a particular emphasis on entrepreneurship, banking, globalization, urban development, and money and surveillance. Her publications have examined immigrant entrepreneurship, minority business development, the globalization of ethnic banking, and Asian American communities. Her current work looks at Korean immigrant entrepreneurship and post-Civil Rights era minority politics.

Freedom in Moderation: Platforms, Press, and the Public

Speaker: Mike Ananny, Tarleton Gillespie, Kate Klonick
Date recorded: Sep 27, 2018
Mike Ananny and Tarleton Gillespie in conversation with Kate Klonick about the underlying decisions that impact the public’s access to media systems and internet platforms.

Data & Society welcomes Mike Ananny and Tarleton Gillespie for a conversation with Kate Klonick about the underlying decisions that impact the public’s access to media systems and internet platforms.

In “Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear,” Mike Ananny offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux. Seeing press freedom as essential for democratic self-governance, Ananny explores what publics need, what kind of free press they should demand, and how today’s press freedom emerges from intertwined collections of humans and machines. His book proposes what robust, self-governing publics need to demand of technologists and journalists alike.

Tarleton Gillespie’s “Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media” investigates how social media platforms police what we post online—and the way these decisions shape public discourse, cultural production, and the fabric of society. Gillespie provides an overview of current social media practices and explains the underlying rationales for how, when, and why “content moderators” censor or promote user-posted content. The book then flips the way we think about moderation, to argue that content moderation is not ancillary to what platforms do, it is essential, definitional, constitutional. And given that, the very fact of moderation should change how we understand what platforms are.

Mike Ananny is an associate professor of communication and journalism in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California (USC), a faculty affiliate with USC’s Science, Technology, and Society initiative, and a 2018-19 Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England and an affiliated associate professor at Cornell University. He co-founded the blog Culture Digitally. His previous book is the award-winning “Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture.”

Kate Klonick is an assistant professor at law at St. John’s University Law School and an affiliate at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, Data & Society, and New America. Her work on networked technologies’ effect on the areas of social norm enforcement, torts, property, intellectual property, artificial intelligence, robotics, freedom of expression, and governance has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, Maryland Law Review, New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Guardian and numerous other publications.

Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work

Speaker: Sarah Kessler
Date recorded: Sep 19, 2018
Sarah Kessler discusses her new book Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work.

Journalist Sarah Kessler discusses her new book “Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work.” Kessler shares her analysis of the perils and promises of the platform gig economy in conversation with Data & Society’s Alex Rosenblat, researcher and author of the forthcoming book “Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work” (October 23, 2018) and Aiha Nguyen, Social Instabilities in Labor Futures Engagement Lead.

One in three American workers is now a freelancer. This “gig economy”―one that provides neither the guarantee of steady hours nor benefits―emerged out of the digital era and has revolutionized the way we do business. High-profile tech start-ups such as Uber and Airbnb are constantly making headlines for the “disruption” they cause to the industries they overturn.

But “disruption” introduces new challenges to employees and job-seekers who seek to navigate platform policies, ensure workplace safety, and hedge against instability. Join us for a timely discussion on the quest to find meaningful, well-paid work as technology increasingly destabilizes and transforms the future of labor.

Sarah Kessler is a journalist based in New York City. She is the author of Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work and an editor at Quartz. Previously, she covered the gig economy as a senior writer at Fast Company and managed startup coverage at Mashable. Her reporting has been cited by The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and NPR.

The Future of Labor research initiative at Data & Society seeks to better understand emergent disruptions in the labor force as a result of data-centric technological development, with a special focus on structural inequalities. Its team recently released the report Beyond Disruption: How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing–as featured in the New York Times, NPR All Things Considered, and The Nation.

Online Speech Regulation: A Comparative Perspective

Speaker: Claudia Haupt
Date recorded: Jun 13, 2018
Claudia Haupt discusses competing frameworks for regulating speech on the web.

Claudia Haupt discusses competing frameworks for regulating speech on the web. Claudia Haupt is a 2017-18 Data & Society Fellow and a resident fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. She previously taught at Columbia Law School and George Washington University Law School. Prior to that, she clerked at the Regional Court of Appeals of Cologne and practiced law at the Cologne office of the law firm of Graf von Westphalen, with a focus on information technology law.

Data Science Ethics

Speaker: Matthew L. Jones
Date recorded: Jun 13, 2018
Matthew L. Jones speaks about key illiteracies surrounding metadata, the hacking of our court system, and the possibility of ethics at scale.

Matthew L. Jones speaks about key illiteracies surrounding metadata, the hacking of our court system, and the possibility of ethics at scale. Jones is a 2017-2018 Data & Society Fellow who studies the history of science and technology, with a focus on early modern Europe and on recent information technologies. He is completing a book on computing and state surveillance of communications and is working on a historical and ethnographic account of big data, its relation to statistics and machine learning, and its growth as a fundamental new form of technical expertise. Jones is currently a James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University’s Department of History.

Alternative Data, Credit Scoring, and Financial Freedom

Speaker: Tamara K. Nopper
Date recorded: Jun 8, 2018
How credit agencies such as FICO use narratives of credit as personal responsibility to justify increased data surveillance of consumers.

Tamara K. Nopper’s talk at Future Perfect explains how credit agencies such as FICO use narratives of credit as personal responsibility to justify increased data surveillance of consumers. Reasoning that sources of “alternative data” such as social network usage are a response to discriminatory practices, these agencies are selling financial freedom at the cost of racial injustice.

Future Perfect is a gathering at Data & Society that brings together individuals from a variety of world-building disciplines (from art and fiction to architecture and science) to explore the uses, abuses, and paradoxes of speculative futures.

Tamara K. Nopper has a PhD in Sociology and her teaching and research focuses on the intersection of economic, racial, and gender inequality, with a particular emphasis on entrepreneurship, banking, globalization, urban development, and money and surveillance. Her publications have examined immigrant entrepreneurship, minority business development, the globalization of ethnic banking, and Asian American communities. Her current work looks at Korean immigrant entrepreneurship and post-Civil Rights era minority politics.

Algorithms of Oppression

Speaker: Safiya Umoja Noble
Date recorded: May 15, 2018
Safiya Umoja Noble, in a conversation with Joan Donovan, discusses topics surrounding her new book Algorithms of Oppression, looking at how racism and sexism are disseminated on the web.

In “Algorithms of Oppression”, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.

Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. As search engines and their related companies grow in importance—operating as a source for email, a major vehicle for primary and secondary school learning, and beyond—understanding and reversing these disquieting trends and discriminatory practices is of utmost importance.

SCL and Cambridge Analytica: Peering Inside the Propaganda Machine

Speaker: Emma Briant
Date recorded: May 9, 2018
Emma Briant discusses her research into SCL Group, the vast nexus of companies and organizations including Cambridge Analytica that constitute a modern-day propaganda machine.

Cambridge Analytica and their parent company SCL Group hit the headlines recently when, after their work on the Trump campaign, reporting exposed misuse of Facebook data linked them to ‘Brexit’, unethical conduct in international elections, and revealed their relationship to defense contracting.

Dr. Emma Briant has spent over a decade researching SCL and Cambridge Analytica. She drew on substantial contacts she developed in her work on defense propaganda (Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change, Manchester University Press, 2015) to research an upcoming book, What’s Wrong with the Democrats? Media Bias, Inequality, and the Rise of Donald Trump (co-authored with George Washington University professor Robert M. Entman) and academic publications on the EU referendum.

In this talk, Briant discusses her analysis of the company’s activities in each of these areas, how she gained such unique access to key executives who worked on the campaigns, as well as the implications of the key evidence she recently submitted to several public inquiries in the UK.

Real Talk About Fake News

Speaker: Nabiha Syed in conversation with Claire Wardle and Joan Donovan
Date recorded: Feb 28, 2018
Nabiha Syed explores how our existing theories surrounding the first amendment are inadequate to address the current state of “fake news” and “bad” online speech.

Real Talk about Fake News | Nabiha Syed in conversation with Claire Wardle and Joan Donovan: “Fake news” isn’t exactly new: Tabloids have long hawked alien baby photos and Elvis sightings. Many have thus argued that fake news—propaganda, misinformation, and conspiracy theories—have always existed, and therefore requires no new consideration.

When we agonize over the fake news phenomenon, though, we are not talking about these kinds of fabricated stories. What we are really focusing on is why we have been suddenly inundated by false information—purposefully deployed—that spreads so quickly and persuades so effectively. This is a different conception of fake news, and it presents a question about how information operates at scale in the internet era.

In this Databite talk, Nabiha Syed explores how existing First Amendment theories fail to adequately explain our digital information economy, and how that theoretical incoherence leaves users and social media platforms ill-equipped to deal with “fake news” and other “bad” speech online. Nabiha also offers several factors to be considered in any systemic theory that can help move us beyond the troubled status quo.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Speaker: Virginia Eubanks
Date recorded: Jan 17, 2018
Virginia Eubanks shows the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America.

Virginia Eubanks speaks about her most recent book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. Eubanks systematically shows the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhuman choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.