Amber Macintyre, a PhD student here at newpolcom, received an honorable mention for the James Thomas Memorial Prize, awarded by the Media and Politics Group of the Political Studies Association to the best paper presented by a PhD student at the Group's annual conference. The 2016 conference was held at the London School of Economics on December 12-13. Amber's paper is titled "The culture of data: The help and hindrance of modern political philosophy".
Amber's research is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. In 2015, Royal Holloway was awarded over £1 million from the Trust to support a total of 15 PhD research projects on the theme of Freedom and the Rights of the Individual in the Digital Age.
Here is Amber's paper abstract:
The culture of data has provoked a sense of crisis since its initial popularisation in the 1960s. From the start, academics and civil rights groups, concerned with the impact of dataveillance on democratic rights, have called for urgent decisions to be made on ethical standards. Since then, data availability has grown in capacity and quality; individuals, organisations and government have greater dependence on technical expertise, resulting in a shift in power in the favour of data companies and data scientists. Despite this, and the ongoing criticism, ethical responsibilities have been neglected and a consistent code of ethics is yet to form.
In the last few years, and particularly after the Snowden revelations, more citizens are becoming concerned with the negative impacts of big data on democratic life while simultaneously becoming dependent on data for everyday living. The tension between technological progress and the need for an ethical code remains dichotomous and seemingly unsolvable. Foundational theories of modern political philosophy have both helped shape and explain democratic structures. In this research, these same theories are used to frame the analysis of big data literature so far. The findings are two-fold. Firstly, the seeming dichotomy between data practice and ethical concerns can be understood by considering theories of democracy. Secondly, new challenges of data doubles, machine learning and the ‘technocrats’ of data uncover drawbacks of these political theories.