Tallinn University of Technology

TalTech DataLab is inviting you to participate in the online seminar series on the most recent societal and governance challenges regarding the developments in data technologies (data, algorithms, artificial intelligence). DataLab is a recently established team combining uniquely critical and computational aspects of data for mapping, analysing, and understanding the social changes related to data technologies (data, algorithms, artificial intelligence).

DataLab seminars in Autumn 2022 address one the most recent and urgent development - data migration – where data is moved from one society to another to develop machine learning algorithms, and the related social transformations. Examples of data migration are the following: moving the sensitive data and servers from Ukraine to the West after the Russian invasion; health app Ubenwa, developed in Canada for detecting birth asphyxia, based on Mexican babies’ cry data, and implemented in Nigeria.

Although legal and technical interoperability is widely discussed, we still do not know the social aspects of data migration. Answers to the following urgent questions are still unknown – what happens with the individuals’ lives and societies when the data transfer is successful or fails? Why does data migration sometimes succeed or fail? DataLab seminars address these issues to discuss the conceptual, methodological, and practical challenges for studying data migration, and from an interdisciplinary perspective. The confirmed presenters of the seminar are leading experts in their fields, including for example, Andrew Grotto (Stanford University), Andrea Maccarini (University of Padova), Nick Couldry (London School of Economics).   

Seminars take place once in a month (September 8, September 22, October 20, November 24, December 15). To participate in the doctoral school, please register latest by 5 September 2022 here. For more information, please contact datalab@taltech.ee

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Anu Masso Ragnar Nurkse Institute for Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology


Title of presentation: Understanding global data migration: a social transformation perspective

Andrew Grotto Program on Geopolitics, Technology, and Governance, Stanford University


Title of presentation: Geo-politics and sovereignty in cross-border data movements    


Governments around the world are enacting laws that require organizations to manage cyber risks. A challenge with these initiatives, however, is that organizations have limited data on how to measure their risk management performance—are they doing enough?—while governments have limited data on how to evaluate the performance of their laws—do the laws actually reduce risk, and is the reduction enough? I will discuss developments in the United States and elsewhere aimed at addressing this problem, with a particular focus on a proposal in the United States for a Bureau of Cyber Statistics.

Andrew Grotto is the founding director of the Program on Geopolitics, Technology and Governance at Stanford University, where his research and writing examine governance challenges associated with digital technologies in a global context. He also serves as faculty lead for the Cyber Policy and Security specialization in Stanford’s Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy graduate program and teaches the core course for the specialization. Before arriving at Stanford in July 2017, Grotto was the Senior Director for Cyber Policy on the National Security Council, a position he assumed in 2015. In that capacity, he managed a team of senior experts advising two Presidents and their cabinets on a range of cyber policy issues, including defense of the financial services, energy, communications, transportation, health care, electoral infrastructure, and other vital critical infrastructure sectors; cybersecurity risk management policies for federal networks; consumer cybersecurity; and cyber incident response policy and incident management. Grotto is also the founder of Sagewood Global Strategies LLC, a boutique advisory services company that helps directors, officers and other senior leaders in business and government manage geopolitical, reputational, and regulatory risks associated with digital technologies. He also serves on the board of directors of Slamfire and the advisory board of Cygnvs.

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Data Migration in Vast Machines: Smart Cities, Digital Twins and Spatial Data Infrastructures

Tracey P. Lauriault, Associate Professor of Critical Media and Big Data, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Smart cities, digital twins and spatial data infrastructures are by their nature multiscalar complex social and technological systems intentionally built for data to flow between sensors and meters, to create models, simulations, maps, and virtual and augmented reality visualizations. These may also involve automated processes and immersive experiences. These systems vary in scale, whereby a digital twin could be one building or factory, a smart system could be a city with an instantiation of one or more digital twins, and a spatial data infrastructure may be a province, nation state, region, global or planetary in scale, and it might include smart cities and digital twins. Digital twins could also be national in scale while smart city systems could be interconnected to other cities in other jurisdictions. What is certain, is that in these systems, data migrate within and between organizations and jurisdictions, and depending on the case, data flow at local, national, regional, global and planetary scales, and can be characterized as vast machines (Edwards 2020). In this Datalab Seminar I will discuss some early thinking that suggests that these data and technological systems might be useful cases in support of Anu Masso’s work on Data Migration and her call for the need to take a Social Transformation Approach to understanding data transfers, flows and migration.

Dr Tracey P. Lauriault is Associate Professor, Critical Media and Big Data, School of Journalism and Communications, Faculty of Public Affairs and Cross Appointed to Digital Humanities, and is board member of the Institute for Data Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Her ongoing work on open data, open government, big data, smart cities, and data preservation is international, transdisciplinary, and multi-sectoral. Her current research interests are in digital twins, data brokers, Indigenous data, disaggregated equity data and data governance. Lauriault is one of the founders of the field critical data studies, open data and Open Smart Cities, taking a data and technology governance approach to the shaping of large complex systems. As a publicly engaged scholar, she mobilizes her research into data and technology policy across sectors. As a data and technological citizen, she examines large and small data and technology systems with the hope of making them more just, inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1847-2738

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Andrea M. Maccarini – Department of Political Science, Law and International Studies, University of Padova (Italy)

The world we inhabit is clearly undergoing far-reaching transformations, from climate change to a revival of war even in the heart of Europe. Many of the taken-for-granted assumptions which have shaped people’s lives for decades – and in some regions of global society even for generations – are deeply shaken. A variety of interweaving processes and system dynamics have taken the world into uncharted territory. Although the relevance of natural phenomena and of technological capacities must not be underestimated, a huge lot of the current changes depends on the elusive, puzzling socio-cultural dimension of reality. Therefore, it is imperative that social science becomes more effective in “mainstreaming the future”, i.e. reclaiming the construction of visions and (humble) predictions, avoiding the opposite risks of positivism, old and new, and the fall into a hopeless contemplation of intractable randomness.

In this presentation, I first quickly introduce the morphogenetic approach, which provides a metatheoretical, methodological frame to study social processes and structures, and the related substantive notion of morphogenic society. Then I go on to illustrate the main thesis of my recent work, according to which the current societal challenges must be understood as the emergent expression of a morphogenic society in a closed world. I try to clarify how these combined features shape the deeper form of contemporary social and cultural dynamics.

I then discuss the two possible scenarios of regional warlordism vs. digital panopticon – which have been evoked in contemporary social theory as possible outcomes of the present turbulence – in this theoretical perspective. In doing this, I also introduce my current research agenda, which addresses the morphogenesis of civilizations, both on the macro level and in the ways biographies, lifestyles, reflexivity and identity are being shaped and moulded. My underlying thesis here is that the convergence and divergence between civilizational socio-cultural paths is mainly contingent upon a clash within each of them, particularly concerning the relationally contested alternatives in their cultural programs.

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Mirko Schäfer, Utrecht University Data School


Title of presentation: Action Research for the Datafied Society

Digital methods and data analysis provide scholars from the humanities and the social sciences with unprecedented opportunities to engage with societal partners, carry out research and to participate in building our datafied society. In this talk, Mirko will speak about the distinct methods developed by the Utrecht Data School for their publicly engaged research.

The Utrecht Data School is a research and teaching platform at Utrecht University committed to investigating how datafication and algorithmisation transform citizenship and democracy.

Mirko Tobias Schäfer is Associate Professor at Utrecht University's research area Governing the Digital Society and the Department for Information & Computing Sciences. He is the co-founder and Faculty of Science Lead of the Utrecht Data School. Mirko is also a visiting professor at the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences & Humanities (University of Helsinki).

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