Big tech through the eyes of the user
Faculty of Science, Radboud University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisors: Prof. A.P. de Vries, Dr. E. Herder, Dr. L. Krabbenborg
I have a Bachelor’ s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Data Science, with a specialization in ‘Science in Society’. In my Data Science master I was taught the technical ins and outs of AI and machine learning technologies, while my Science in Society specialization gave me a formal introduction to the societal, ethical and political aspects of those technologies. I completed my specialization with a thesis on what users believed the societal responsibilities of Google should be, with regards to the personalization of search results.
Big data technologies increasingly govern our day-to-day lives and society as a whole. Companies like Google and Facebook, for instance, impact our information diet, by using big data technologies to decide for us what online content we do and do not get to see. In the medical sector, big data technologies now allow large tech companies, rather than doctors, to diagnose whether we are ill. Due to their significant impact on society, the functioning of these technologies should not just be seen as a technological issue, but also a societal and political one.
While the increasing influence of big data technologies, and the societal and political issues related to it, have received significant attention within the public and scientific communities, what is still lacking is research into what users (i.e. individual citizens) think of the societal and political issues of these technologies. The lack of user perspectives in the discussion is particularly pressing, because through their usage, users are directly affected by the technologies in their routines, responsibilities and social practices.
What complicates the inclusion of users in the discussion is the relatively low awareness amongst users about the functioning of these big data technologies and the companies behind them. As such, creating more awareness and stimulating users to formulate opinions about big data technologies will also form a significant and crucial part of my PhD project.
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