Not-Equal Summer School

post by Jimiama Mafeni Mase (2018 cohort)

I participated in Not-Equal Summer School, a virtual summer school about social justice and digital economy. The summer school ran from the 7th of June to the 11th of June. It was designed to equip participants with tools to understand and support social justice in this digital economy. Participants were grouped into teams according to their research or career interests (i.e. urban environment, health & care, eco workers & labour, public services, and education & technology), to explore existing and emerging technologies and examine how power and social justice evolve with these technologies.

The first day was simply an introduction with a talk about the evolution of social justice in digital economies and machine learning. The key speakers presented some major topics about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for social justice such as the relational structure of AI, the AI modelling pipeline, and the influence of AI and Big Data on human rights. A common issue among the talks was around machine learning model predictions’ interpretability, reliability and bias, and the complexity of the data used to train the models as data are usually collected at different stages in the pipeline.

The second day consisted of workshops that explored the use of gestures to express the consequences of power and social injustice in our work places, research and lives. Later, the identified gestures were used to propose designs of new utopian technologies. My team proposed a recruitment technology that considers hope, transparency and fairness as candidates usually face racial, gender and age bias and discrimination. Our gesture was ‘finger crossed’, which signified our hope for a recruitment technology that will be fair and transparent in its recruitment process. The day ended with an interesting webinar about human and collaborative work-practices of data science to improve social justice in AI.

Digital commons was the topic of Day 3. Commoning is the collective and collaborative governance of material resources and shared knowledge. During the day, we were required to define a common in our areas of interest. My team examined commoning of hygiene and health at the community level. We identified key actors in this space as health care professionals, sanitation workers, and residents. We identified key barriers in the implementation of such a common such as the impact of different jobs and responsibilities, different working schedules, and partnerships with external stakeholders e.g. the city council or NHS. We concluded the workshops by presenting ways of ensuring the success of our proposed digital commons, such as, creating rules and procedures to guide the behaviours of the actors, and emphasised that the rules need to be collectively developed. The day ended with a webinar about making data work for social justice.

The themes of the fourth day were systems change & power dynamics, and working culture. We explored the challenges and opportunities in working cultures and power dynamics to support social justice. Key challenges identified were working with senior stakeholders, managing external partners, limited funds and budget, project deadlines, and resource availability. Later, we discussed methods of improving working cultures and power dynamics such as bringing stakeholders together, confidence to speak up, adopt perspectives that do not necessarily come in research, creating allies, and rapid prototyping. We also proposed that institutions introduce power dynamics and working cultures training courses. The day ended with a webinar about using imagination and storytelling for social transformations and social movements. The speakers emphasised  the importance of visualising the kind of futures we want or imagine.

The summer school finished with two intensive workshops about ‘design fiction’.  That is, research and prototyping design fiction methods for the digital world to envision socially just futures. My team focused on a design fiction for the community, where members of the community could have equal opportunities to care, knowledge, and support with the use of community cobots. The cobots will act upon encrypted information with no personal data, to assist members of the community. We imagined such a cobot will not have access to any personal or individual information, and all members will have equal rights and responses from the cobot. These utopian brainstorming and imagination workshops were a great way to close the summer school. During the last hours of the day, we shared our thoughts about the summer school and each participant was asked to summarise their experience with three words. My words were ‘collaboration’, ‘fairness’ and ‘power’.

It is important to mention that we used Miro throughout the summer school. Miro is a whiteboard and visual collaborative online platform for remote team collaboration. It was my first encounter with the platform but familiarising myself with it was not difficult.










5 tips for being more inclusive!

Post by Neeshé Khan (2018 Cohort)

I’m writing this blog post while travelling on a highspeed train that’s currently running from Glasgow (Scotland) back to where I need to be. Whizzing past towns is a blur of colour – to me these blotches of blurred colour represent so much life,  emotions, tears, love, loss, endless stories and experiences. Some of these stories we might get to hear about and many more never get heard.

Much like this blotch of colour, my mind is also a blur with so many thoughts, ideas and experiences that I soaked up at CHInclusionworkshop. CHI is a prestigious conference which has seriously started thinking about inclusion at their events – to open up to new audiences and making those attending feel included in this computer science community.

Having attended this workshop was particularly timely for me. I recently had the privilege of being interviewed about diversity and inclusion of females in the cybersecurity and AI fields and share my own experiences in regards to this for Women’s History Month. I don’t believe that it was something in specific that I had done but rather just that I ended up being at the right place at the right time.

I’ve also noticed how a lot of my conversations with my close support network have been focused on diversityinclusionsocial justice and equal opportunities. I thoroughly enjoy these conversations because (selfishly) they offer me great mental stimulation. I believe that these phenomena are interlinked and must be seen in a circular rather than a lateral way and think this is one of the greatest challenges we face for a better future.

These are some of my learnings from the interview, personal discussions and the CHInclusive workshop, which I hope will be inspirational to you but also in time serve as a reminder to myself – enjoy!

Everything is a two-way mirrorI came across a sentence at the workshop which deeply resonated with me. It was something along the lines of ‘see yourself in others and see others in you’. I feel this is the core of being inclusive to others. It’s important to strive to find commonalities with anyone rather than differences. It’s a two-way mirror where we must constantly try to see others’ stories and challenges in our own experiences while also seeing ourselves in their actions and choices.

2. Inclusion and diversity are separate but the same in many ways. We must think about these carefully as one is insufficient without the other. Inclusion speaks about including everyone along the way, just bring everyone along for the ride! To me, diversity essentially means taking a range of skillsets along for your ride. Even if that means that someone might offer the same skillset as you. They can still do things very differently to how you do them. One is not better or worse than the other, just different. I firmly believe diversity goes beyond gender and must start to seriously encompass ethnic minorities and truly represent diverse audiences, each participant bringing their own skillset.

3. Empower ourselves and those around you. Be more inclusive to everyone. Be more diverse in your engagements. Be mindful of your conscious and unconscious biases. We’re all people who are saying the same things in different ways. Some things we’ll inevitably love to hear and others we’ll dread but listen to them anyway. This might empower you, as well as others, to create spaces that are tolerant and encouraging of new thoughts, people and things.

4. It’s not personal. I feel it’s important to remember that any comment that might exhilarate or aggravate you, it’s not personal. No one other than you has travelled your journey, faced your challenges, overcome your adversities or experienced what you’ve experienced and how you’ve experienced it.

5. Create space for others even if you feel that space isn’t created for you. This can be especially hard to experience. Ultimately, it still allows you to offer a space that’s safe for anyone who needs it. You can foster micro-universes of interaction that will lead to others being empowered and eventually you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who offer this same space to you in a much deeper and richer way than you can imagine.

—originally posted at