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Oxford Internet Institute

Understanding life online

Oxford Internet Institute University of Oxford

OII Newsletter August 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

We have more than doubled in size in the last five years, and our expansion continues -- appointments in the last few months include Professor Philip Howard, appointed to our Chair in Internet Studies, Senior Research Fellow/Associate Professor Gina Neff, Researcher Gretta Corporaal, and Researcher Matt Willis. We are pleased to have recently moved into a third building to accommodate this growth -- and we now have a garden! Check out Facebook for a sneak-peak of our new building at 41 St Giles ahead of the official opening next month. Our main public face remains at 1 St Giles (behind the blue door that will be familiar to many of you) but this addition now increases our space to three buildings close together (even in real-time!) on St Giles in central Oxford.

The political scientists among us are reeling with the sheer volume of politics that has been packed into the weeks after the Referendum result. Philip Howard brings his ERC-funded project on computational propaganda to the OII, and his work on political bots during the UK-EU Referendum has already been featured in New Scientist: Beware the Brexit bots: The Twitter spam out to swing your vote. The impact of social media on the outcome of the EU referendum was also discussed by DPhil students Vyacheslav Polonski (in the University's Views from Oxford) and Yin Yin Lu (in The Conversation), and Ralph Schroeder has a new article on rethinking digital media and political change. How social media shape collective action -- such as the Brexit campaigns -- is also the subject of our recent book (with P.John, S.Hale, T.Yasseri): Political Turbulence, which examines the explosive rise, non-normal distribution and lack of organization that characterizes contemporary politics as a chaotic system. Watch this space in the lead-up to the US Election!

We are looking forward to our IPP2016 conference on "The Platform Society", which is looking increasingly au courant given recent conflicts over Deliveroo worker conditions. It is already fully booked, but registration is still open for our Symposium on Big Data and Human Development on 15 September. And we'll be holding our next Internet Awards dinner on 11 November (tickets are already on sale). Our fifth awards evening, they have always been tremendous fun -- a wonderful chance to meet some of the remarkable individuals who have make such a positive mark on the Internet and society. We hope you can come!

Best wishes,
Helen Margetts, Director

In this issue...

Digital Transformations of Work

We have two major ERC-funded projects examining digital economies and labour: Geonet, which is investigating the geographies and drivers of Sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging information economies, and iLabour, which is investigating the social and policy implications of the momentous shift taking place in labour markets. Given recent events with Deliveroo it is timely that we examine the fragmentation of working time and the move to task-based pay systems that are a central feature of the ‘gig’ economy.

In a recent three-part series exploring digital transformations of work, Mark Graham, Alex Wood and Amir Anwar discussed the worrying futures facing digital workers. Read: Mark Graham on digital work and the global precariat, Alex Wood on technology, power and culture – what’s driving the digital transformation of work? and Amir Anwar on low income and high competition – digital jobs in a neoliberal age. Mark Graham has also pointed out ways in which a “race to the bottom” might be avoided and how digital work marketplaces impose a new balance of power.

The below videos are from our Digital Transformations of Work Conference, which took place earlier in the year. Talks by Guy Standing, Saskia Sassen, Karen Gregory, Jill Rubery, Brendan Burchell and Kevin Doogan were also recorded.

Online Platforms, Diversity and Fragmentation

Vili Lehdonvirta discusses outcomes for people working on online labour.



Image: Gretta Corporaal has joined the ERC-funded iLabour project, which examines online labour platforms and crowdsourcing marketplaces. Also working on the project are (from left) Alex Wood, Vili Lehdonvirta (PI), and Otto Kässi.


Turing Institute: Data Science

We are a contributing department to the Turing Institute, the national centre for data science. Data science is inherently interdisciplinary, and the Institute has identified "social sciences methods and expertise for understanding human behaviour from data" as one of its four key capabilities and foundational research strengths, an area in which we will be playing a key role. Ten of our faculty have been appointed as Turing Faculty Fellows, and will be spending a portion of their time in the institute.

While the benefits of big data and data science for the private sector are well recognised, considerably less attention has been paid to the potential of data science for policy-making and public services, the subject of a summit we co-organised to bring together leading policy makers, data scientists and academics to discuss how the ATI and government could work together to develop data science for the public good.


Image: The summit on Data Science for Government and Policy-Making aimed to understand how government can make better use of big data and the ATI. From left: Tom Melham (Oxford Dept of Computer Science), Helen Margetts (OII), Mark Walport (Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Paul Maltby (Director of Data at Government Digital Service), Patrick Wolfe (Deputy Director of the ATI), Luciano Floridi (OII).

Turing Lecture: The Data Science of Politics (Video)

Helen Margetts on how data science can help us understand political turbulence.

Turing Lecture: Ethics in the Age of Information (Video)

Luciano Floridi outlines the nature and scope of information ethics.


Webcasts

A New Approach To Defining Extremism

Bertie Vidgen argues that our definitions of extremism are severely limited.

Digitalisation and Global Labour Markets

Mark Graham is interviewed about the new world of work.

Digital Era Government and Politics (MSc option course)

Victoria Nash and Jonathan Bright discuss the changing nature of politics.

Internet Economics (MSc option)

Greg Taylor discusses the economics of the Internet, and economics as a tool for social research more generally.


Teaching

After launching the option of part-time study last year, we are excited to be welcoming our first cohort of part-time MSc students in October, many of whom bring considerable practical experience with them to Oxford. We are also delighted that MSc student Ndakuna Fonso Amidou was named the UK's best black student at this year's Rare Rising Stars ceremony at Westminster, and DPhil student Elizabeth Dubois was awarded the Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award at the 2016 ICA conference. MSc alumna Eve Binder (2015) was included in the University Encaenia, having won our MSc Thesis Prize for reporting a controlled experiment on the effectiveness of gamification as a fundraising tool. Congratulations, all!

The application process for 2017 entry to our MSc and DPhil programmes opens on 1 September. We have student open days on 16 September and 17 November.


Image: End of year student drinks in Balliol's buttery. We are always sad to see our students leave -- but really pleased to see them move on to exciting jobs all over the world, and of course they will always be part of the OII family!


In the Press

Our work continues to achieve significant coverage in the media, including on the new political turbulence driven by social media, the impact of digital technology on young people, and labour precarity and the "gig" economy. Andrew Przybylski has commented in the BBC on research by Ofcom: Net overload ‘sparks digital detox for millions of Britons’, and on The psychological tricks behind Pokemon Go’s success, and a past feature of his work by the BBC: Do video games make people violent? is still relevant to the debate today. Gina Neff's book (with Dawn Nafus) Self-Tracking has been featured in The Wall Street Journal: For a Relaxing Vacation, Look to the Data.

DPhil student Vyacheslav W. Polonski has written for the World Economic Forum about collective action: The biggest threat to democracy? Your social media feed, and Taha Yasseri has discussing findings from the book Political Turbulence in The Observer: Trash talk: how Twitter is shaping the new politics. The book was also featured in The Economist: How are social media changing democracy? and in their special report on protest movements: A new kind of weather: Social media now play a key role in collective action.

The Washington Post cited Taha's project (with Jennie Zhang) in: Why everyone is miserable on Tinder, and his study on Internet disagreements in How to win a Facebook argument, according to science. His project (with Ruth García-Gavilanes and Milena Tsvetkova) was reported in the MIT Technology Review on The Strange Way Aircraft Crashes Attract Human Attention on the Web. Work by Heather Ford and Mark Graham was featured in The Washington Post: You probably haven't even noticed Google's sketchy quest to control the world's knowledge. [See all the press coverage.]


Forthcoming Events

13 Sept 2016
Panel on Power, Politics and Digital Development (DSA 2016)

15-16 Sept 2016
Symposium on Big Data and Human Development

16 Sept 2016
Student Open Day

21 Sept 2016
Helen Margetts speaks at: Social Media Data: What's the use

22-23 Sept 2016
IPP2016 Conference: The Platform Society

17 Nov 2016
Student Open Day


Image: We hope you had a nice summer! Our newest space is already very popular...

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