Technology, Data and Society

Reflecting on UN Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions, our list looks at the potential for innovation and creative solutions to global social problems, whilst critically engaging with the risks, such as worsened social inequality and damage to human rights.

Subjects covered include the development of sustainable technology to help combat climate change, the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse data more efficiently, the way social media creates a space for people to organise international social activism and the need to balance our digital lives and retain data sovereignty, especially for the most vulnerable in society.

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Technology, data and innovation, we aim to address the following goals: 

Technology, Data and Society

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Situated Smart Initiatives in African Cities
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The ‘smart city’ is often promoted as a technology-driven solution to complex urban issues. While commentators are increasingly critical of techno-optimistic narratives, the political imagination is dominated by claims that technical solutions can be uniformly applied to intractable problems.

This book provides a much-needed alternative view, exploring how ‘home-grown’ digital disruption, driven and initiated by local actors, upends the mainstream corporate narrative.

Drawing on original research conducted in a range of urban African settings, Odendaal shows how these initiatives can lead to meaningful change.

This is a valuable resource for scholars working in the intersection of science and technology studies, urban and economic geography and sociology.

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Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) have become a common feature of the urban landscape in cities throughout Europe. An emerging body of literature suggests that Fab Labs go beyond providing access to digital fabrication tools, and function as ‘third places’ as they enhance social connectedness. Drawing on a case study of a Fab Lab in the English city of Coventry, this article utilises the concept of ‘austerity urbanism’ to understand the changing nature of third places in England since the 2008 global financial crash. In doing so, we argue that a confluence of austerity urbanism and digital advancements has influenced both the emergence of new third places (such as Fab Labs) while simultaneously undermining long-established third places (such as libraries). As a result, vital aspects of social infrastructure are being shaped and reshaped in the contemporary era. The article reflects on what these changes mean for individual and community well-being.

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The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) awakened the world to the critical need for food systems transformation. Several commitments were made during the summit, with the UN Secretary-General reiterating the need to support national mechanisms that develop and implement national pathways to 2030 that are inclusive and consistent with countries’ climate commitments, building upon the national food systems dialogues. Much of the discussion in the post-summit era has mostly been high level and focused on how countries can be supported to transform pathways into strategies and to design and operationalise investment plans aimed at fostering sustainable and inclusive food systems transformation. However, what has been missing in these discussions is what the envisaged transformation means for the smallholder farmer, and what it takes for smallholder farmers to embrace the transformative agenda and transition to more sustainable methods of production. In this article, reference is made to two of the Five Action Tracks, namely Action Track 3 (boost nature-based solutions) and Action Track 5 (build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses), whose central themes are anchored around resilience and sustainability. The paper discusses the underpinnings of nature-positive production systems and explores how these systems interface with smallholder farmers’ circumstances and production goals, and how this might affect implementation of the envisaged practices at the farm level. The central argument in this article is that discussions around food systems transformation must include the smallholder farmers, their lived experiences, socio-economic circumstances, aspirations and production goals.

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A Comparative Perspective

From Deliveroo to Amazon, digital platforms have transformed the way we work drastically. But how are these transformations being received and challenged by workers?

This book provides a radical interpretation of the changing nature of worker movements in the digital age, developing an invaluable approach that combines social movement studies and industrial relations.

Using case studies taken from Europe and North America, it offers a comparative perspective on the mobilizing trajectories of different platform workers and their distinct organizational forms and action repertoires.

This is an innovative book that offers a complete view of the new labour conflicts in the platform economy.

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Automation, Intelligence and the Politics of Knowing
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We are living in algorithmic times.

From machine learning and artificial intelligence to blockchain or simpler news-feed filtering, automated systems can transform the social world in ways that are just starting to be imagined.

Redefining these emergent technologies as the new systems of knowing, pioneering scholar David Beer examines the acute tensions they create and how they are changing what is known and what is knowable. Drawing on cases ranging from the art market and the smart home through to financial tech, AI patents and neural networks, he develops key concepts for understanding the framing, envisioning and implementation of algorithms.

This book will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with the rise of algorithmic thinking and the way it permeates society.

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Measures, Motives and Aims

Coups d’état continue to present one of the most extreme risks to democracy and stable governance worldwide. This book examines the unique role played by regional organisations (ROs) following the occurrence of a coup d’état.

The book analyses which factors influence the strength of reactions demonstrated by ROs and explores which different post-coup solutions ROs pursue. It argues that, when confronted with a coup, ROs take both basic democratic standards and regional stability into account before forming their responses.

Using a mixed methods approach, the book concludes that ROs respond more decisively to a coup based on how detrimental it will be for the state of democracy in a country, and the higher its risk of destabilizing the region.

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Who Is Stealing Jobs?

Who steals jobs? Who owns jobs?

Focusing on the competitive labour market, this book scrutinizes the narratives created around immigration and automation. The authors explore how the advances in AI and demands for constant flow of immigrant workers eradicate political and working rights, fuelling fears over job theft and ownership.

Shedding light on the multiple ways in which employment is used as an instrument of neoliberal governance, this revealing book sparks new debate on the role of automation and migration policies. It is an invaluable resource for academics and practitioners working in the areas of immigration and labour, capitalism and social exclusion, and economic models and political governance.

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An Anti-fascist Approach to Artificial Intelligence
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere, yet it causes damage to society in ways that can’t be fixed. Instead of helping to address our current crises, AI causes divisions that limit people’s life chances, and even suggests fascistic solutions to social problems. This book provides an analysis of AI’s deep learning technology and its political effects and traces the ways that it resonates with contemporary political and social currents, from global austerity to the rise of the far right.

Dan McQuillan calls for us to resist AI as we know it and restructure it by prioritising the common good over algorithmic optimisation. He sets out an anti-fascist approach to AI that replaces exclusions with caring, proposes people’s councils as a way to restructure AI through mutual aid and outlines new mechanisms that would adapt to changing times by supporting collective freedom.

Academically rigorous, yet accessible to a socially engaged readership, this unique book will be of interest to all who wish to challenge the social logic of AI by reasserting the importance of the common good.

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Perspectives on Rights to Participation
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This much-needed volume fills an overlooked gap in adult safeguarding – the digital arena – in providing a comprehensive overview of policy and practice in supporting vulnerable adults online.

Providing an essential analysis illustrated by recent court rulings and case studies, the authors advocate for the effective support of adults with learning disabilities and/or mental capacity issues in their digital lives without compromising their privacy and participation rights.

The text balances a theoretical exploration of the tensions between participation and protection, legislation, human rights, professional biases and social wrongs. It encourages a critical approach in adopting both a practical and realistic understanding for policy makers, professionals and students in social work, law and adult social care.

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Living the Contradiction

ePDF and ePUB available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

The Nordic countries are regarded as frontrunners in promoting equality, yet women’s experiences on the ground are in many ways at odds with this rhetoric.

Putting the spotlight on the lived experiences of women working in tech-driven research and innovation areas in the Nordic countries, this volume explores why, despite numerous programmes, women continue to constitute a minority in these sectors.

The contributors flesh out the differences and similarities across different Nordic countries and explore how the shifts in labour market conditions have impacted on women in Research and Innovation.

This is an invaluable contribution to global debates around the mechanisms that maintain gendered structures in Research and Innovation, from academia to biotechnology and IT.

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