Human Stories of Digital Transformation

Human Stories of Digital Transformation

With Human Stories of Digital Transformation, Commons Network aims to further the idea of online spaces where citizens and communities take center stage. We believe that securing this space online and in the digital infrastructure is crucial to the wellbeing of societies. A digital space that embodies our values: strong public institutions, democratic governance, sovereignty of communities and people, diversity of cultures, and equality and justice.

The rationale for a digital public space has been well established in recent years. There is a growing body of analysis and policy visions that emphasize the need for a more public and civic online ecosystem. An increasingly large group of civil society and public sector organisations, academia and developers is coalescing around this vision. They share the aim of reshaping the balance of power on the internet and building a Digital Public Space.

We are collecting stories from people’s daily lives, stories and experiences from people who are affected by digital transition. Big tech infrastructures such as delivery services, taxi services, algorithms, are increasingly shaping our cities. But optimizing for convenience comes with a price. How are  surveillance capitalism and ever-growing societal and economic power imbalances affecting our lives?

Teaching with Microsoft and Google classroom creates inequality between students, but also it is privatising our public infrastructures. Effectively we end up with the situation that big tech designs our education systems. Is this desirable? More generally, taken along by the neoliberal ethics of productivity and efficiency we are letting convenience lure us into the use of certain tools. Digital tools are being optimised for convenience, not for democratic governance or privacy for example.

Big parts of society are not knowledgeable on what trade offs they actually make. The implications of a certain tool for privacy, collective wellbeing, equality and democracy are often not clear to the individual user and also probably should not be their responsibility.

We are collecting:

  • Stories about the impact of ad-tech on our lives
  • Stories that illustrate how private technology infrastructures undermine democracy and our social contract
  • Stories by individuals or organizations, businesses impacted by platformization and privatization of public infrastructure by Big Tech

Think of a primary school teacher being forced to adapt her methods to the infrastructure of Google Classroom because her school decided to sign an exclusive contract with them, or think of a precarious worker being forced to work longer shifts for Deliveroo (or some other platform) because the platform decided to hike their rates.

The goal is to create a diverse tapestry of snapshots from all over Europe of normal people and their experiences with accelerated digitalization of their city, and their lives.

Human Stories of Digital Transformation is part of a larger project on Digital Public Space that we do together with our partner Open Future Foundation and the wider SDEPS coalition. It builds on our earlier work Vision for a Shared Digital Europe and Generative Interoperability: Building Public and Civic Spaces Online. The project is made possible with the support of ECF.

Links:

  • Generative Interoperability: Building Online Public and Civic Spaces -CN & Open Future 2022
  • The inspiring article The Case for Digital Public Infrastructure’’ by Ethan Zuckerman 2020.
  • Vision for a Shared Digital Europe developed by 30 experts from the civil society and the public sector, facilitated by Commons Network and Open Future Foundation was published in 2019. This vision provides a digital policy framework that helps build a more equitable and democratic digital environment, where basic liberties and rights are protected, where strong public institutions function in the public interest, and where people have a say in how their digital environment functions.
  • A similar perspective is presented in A Vision for the Future Internet, a working paper recently published by NGI Forward, which argues for a “more democratic, resilient, sustainable, trustworthy and inclusive internet by 2030”

With support from: