Followers of this blog know I am a scanning machine – always looking around on Twitter and beyond, gathering and comparing signals of change or interesting bits of information with other futures practice colleagues. This blog has had a running series on these scans since it started. This is a central idea in futures practice – and best done in community!
In the last six months, I’ve run across a number of great academic articles that I haven’t featured previously. These are listed in alpha order with the authors – and run the gamut of all kinds of topics. What they have in common – is that I think they’ll be of interest to future facing social workers. They show how futures thinking looks in action across our profession – and in other professions that we might intersect with. I found them all fascinating, thought provoking and/or inspiring. They spark thinking as powerful ideas so often do! They are mostly brand new (and just published online) – but a couple are just new to me and within a few years of being written. Hopefully these are the kinds of articles that will find their way into social work courses, research, continuing education – and as importantly our informal co-learning and the shaping of our profession. To meet the future with new levels of readiness…we have to learn together in new ways.
If you have or know of a future-related academic article you’d like me to consider featuring in a future blog post – please share at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brewer, L.C., Fortuna, K.I., Jones, C., Walker, R., Hays, S.N., Patten, C.A. & Cooper, L.A. (2020). Back to the future: Achieving health equity through health infomatics and digital health. JMIR mHealth and Uhealth, Pubished online.
The rapid proliferation of health informatics and digital health innovations has revolutionized clinical and research practices. There is no doubt that these fields will continue to have accelerated growth and a substantial impact on population health. However, there are legitimate concerns about how these promising technological advances can lead to unintended consequences such as perpetuating health and health care disparities for underresourced populations. To mitigate this potential pitfall, it is imperative for the health informatics and digital health scientific communities to understand the challenges faced by disadvantaged groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, which hinder their achievement of ideal health. This paper presents illustrative exemplars as case studies of contextually tailored, sociotechnical mobile health interventions designed with community members to address health inequities using community-engaged research approaches. We strongly encourage researchers and innovators to integrate community engagement into the development of data-driven, modernized solutions for every sector of society to truly achieve health equity for all. (Author abstract.)
DeCook, J. (2020). A (white) cyborg’s manifesto: The overwhelmingly western ideology driving technofeminist theory. Media, Culture and Society, Published online on September 28, 2020.
‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ is a required reading in many graduate programs to explore technofeminism, transhumanism, and studies of science and technology to explore notions of gender, race, and other minoritized identities. However, in this essay, I note the ways that Haraway’s pieces still exacerbates categories of difference, and my own difficulties and critiques of the cyborg identity. I encourage readers not only to consider its importance, but also limits the cyborg identity, and how the concept of cyborg itself is fraught with a Western, patriarchal violence that cannot be ignored in the greater context of technology and technological innovation. Although useful in imagining a departure from traditional categories of difference, I inquire as to whether it upholds the very things it purported to dismantle, and explore other scholars’ works in challenging the concepts. Ultimately ‘cyborgs’ are not outside fof the politics within which they exist, and must be interpreted in relation to other identity categories without upholding whiteness and Western epistemologies as the center. (Author abstract.)
Detlaff, A., Weber, K., Pendleton, M., Bettencourt, B. & Burton, L. (2020). It is not a broken system, it is a system that needs to be broken: the upEND movement to abolish the child welfare system.Journal of Public Child Welfare, Published online September 6, 2020.
The child welfare system disproportionately harms Black children and families through systemic over-surveillance, over-involvement, and the resulting adverse outcomes associated with foster care. Ending this harm will only be achieved when the forcible surveillance and separation of children from their parents is no longer viewed as an acceptable form of intervention. This paper describes the upEND movement, a collaborative movement aimed at abolishing the child welfare system as we know it and reimagining how we as a society support child, family, and community safety and well-being. (Author abstract.)
The interplay between race and technology has captured the attention of scholars in sociology, communication, media studies, and beyond. Previous research has focused on a range of topics including the centrality of race to the structure and function of the Internet, critiques of digital divide studies, and the phenomenon of Black Twitter. Although a robust history of critical race and digital studies exists, there has yet to be a definitive overview that traces the development of this important field. In this review, I fill this gap by delineating a genealogy of critical race and digital studies by mapping the intellectual terrain of the field. To do this, I begin with a broad overview of the history of Internet studies before reviewing key areas in the field of critical race and digital studies, including colorblind studies of the web, digital divide studies, and Black Twitter. I conclude with a focus on the ways that this body of literature can be brought forth to critically understand the implications of emerging areas of academic debate on studies of race and technology. (Author abstract.)
Degrowth is a planned reduction of energy and resource use designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being. Over the past few years, the idea has attracted significant attention among academics and social movements, but for people new to the idea it raises a number of questions. Here I set out to clarify three specific issues: (1) I specify what degrowth means, and argue that the framing of degrowth is an asset, not a liability; (2) I explain how degrowth differs fundamentally from a recession; and (3) I affirm that degrowth is primarily focused on high-income nations, and explore the implications of degrowth for the global South.
This article focuses on the implications of the work of two artists on discourses of temporality and Indigenous futurity. I analyze the work of Skawennati and Bonnie Devine, with particular consideration of their resistance to the hegemonic temporality of extractive and capitalist lifeways and what Mark Rifkin calls ‘settler time’ [Rifkin, Mark. 2017. Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination. Durham: Duke University Press]. Skawennati provides a spiraling narrative of Indigenous pasts and futures in her machinima series, TimeTraveller™. In her sculptural installation, Letters from Home, Bonnie Devine calls upon the viewer to consider the stones from the Serpent River First Nation as elders. The casts of these stones are framed as texts, and viewers are encouraged to learn how to read these lessons, collapsing the divide between deep time and the present. Ultimately, I argue that these artists use emerging, experimental, and established media as a method of creating ruptures in Euro-Western notions of time, providing an embodied experience of a temporal otherwise and glimpses into decolonized futures. (Author abstract.)
This paper looks at the case of transgender Britons who tried to correct the gender listed on their government-issued ID cards, but ran up against the British government’s increasingly computerized methods for tracking, identifying, and defining citizens. These newly computerizing systems show some of the earliest examples of transphobic algorithmic bias: explicit attempts to program trans people out of the system can be seen in the programming of the early Ministry of Pensions computer system designed to apportion benefits to all tax paying British citizens. Transgender citizens pushed back against these developments, attempting to hack the bureaucratic avenues and categories available to them, laying the groundwork for a coalescing political movement. This paper argues that uncovering the deep prehistory of algorithmic bias and investigating instances of resistance within this history is essential to understanding current debates about algorithmic bias, and how computerized systems have long functioned to create and enforce norms and hierarchies. (Author abstract.)
Conditions of abjection are increasingly viewed as problems to be managed with surveillance. Across disparate domains, bodies that challenge normalized constructions of responsible neoliberal citizenship are categorized, monitored, policed, and excluded in dehumanizing and often violent ways. This paper explores the role of surveillance in such processes. The registers covered include everyday abjection (welfare systems, battered women’s shelters, and homelessness), criminalized poverty (police targeting of the poor and emerging ‘poverty capitalism’ arrangements), and the radically adrift (the identification, tracking, and containment of refugees). In each of these cases, surveillance is yoked to structural inequalities and systems of oppression, but it also possesses a cultural dimension that thrusts marginalized and dehumanized subjectivities upon the abject Other. Therefore, I argue that in order to critique the gendered, racialized, and classed dimensions of contemporary surveillance, it is necessary to take seriously the mythologies that give meaning to surveillance practices and the subjectivities that are engendered by them. (Author abstract.)
“What if, instead of solely looking for the best AI talent, tech companies and startups created a Chief Social Work Officer? This is the question Greg Epstein posed to me during our conversation about why AI needs more social workers. My response: The social work difference is that from inception, when considering why or if AI should be created or integrated in society, we would ask: Who should be in the room making that decision? Social work thinking underscores the importance of anticipating how
technological solutions operate and activate in diverse communities” (p. 86).
This article analyses three distinct child welfare data systems in England. We focus on child welfare as a contested area in public services where data systems are being used to inform decision-making and transforming governance. We advance the use of “data assemblage” as an analytical framework to detail how key political and economic factors influence the development of these data systems. We provide an empirically grounded demonstration of why child welfare data systems must not be considered neutral decision aid tools. We identify how systems of thought, ownership structures, policy agendas, organizational practices, and legal frameworks influence these data systems. We find similarities in the move toward greater sharing of sensitive data, but differences in attitudes toward public-private partnerships, rights and uses of prediction. There is a worrying lack of information available about the impacts of these systems on those who are subject to them – particularly in relation to predictive data systems. We argue for policy debates to go beyond technical fixes and privacy concerns to engage with fundamental questions about the power dynamics and rights issues linked to the expansion of data sharing in this sector as well as whether predictive data systems should be used at all. (Author abstract.)
Sage, M., Iverson Hitchcock, L. & Bakk, L. (2020). Professional collaboration networks as a social work research practice innovation: Preparing DSW students for knowledge dissemination roles in a digital society. Research on Social Work Practice. Published online first September 28, 2020.
In professional disciplines, gaps often exist between research and practice. This occurs because of a lack of information exchange between stakeholders about various knowledge of problems and solutions. Implementation science offers systematic strategies for addressing gaps. One potential way to close gaps is by using professional collaboration networks (PCNs), which are technology-mediated, user-centered relationship constellations designed to enhance connections and professional opportunities. These participatory networks are goal-specific, extending across disciplinary and international borders. PCN users can keep current on empirical developments, disseminate knowledge, connect to others for collaboration and mentoring, and expand in-person networks. They allow social workers to contribute their unique knowledge of social systems across interdisciplinary contexts and contribute to conversations about social. This article explores the development of PCNs as a tool for social work researchers, practitioners, and students. PCNs in social work education are explored, including relevance to lifelong professional learning and enhancing research impact. (Author abstract.)
Schillinger, D., Chittamura, D. & Ramirez, S. (2020). From “infodemics” to health promotion: A novel framework for the role of social media in public health. American Journal of Public Health, 110(9), 1393-1396.
Despite the ubiquity of health-related communications via social media, no consensus has emerged on whether this medium, on balance, jeopardizes or promotes public health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has been described as the source of a toxic “infodemic” or a valuable tool for public health. No conceptual model exists for examining the roles that social media can play with respect to population health. We present a novel framework to guide the investigation and assessment of the effects of social media on public health: the SPHERE (Social media and Public Health Epidemic and REsponse) continuum. This model illustrates the functions of social media across the epidemic–response continuum, ranging across contagion, vector, surveillance, inoculant, disease control, and treatment. We also describe attributes of the communications, diseases and pathogens, and hosts that influence whether certain functions dominate over others. Finally, we describe a comprehensive set of outcomes relevant to the evaluation of the effects of social media on the public’s health. (Author abstract.)
This article provides a history of private sector tracking technologies, examining how the advent of commercial surveillance centered around a logic of data capitalism. Data capitalism is a system in which the commoditization of our data enables an asymmetric redistribution of power that is weighted toward the actors who have access and the capability to make sense of information. It is enacted through capitalism and justified by the association of networked technologies with the political and social benefits of online community, drawing upon narratives that foreground the social and political benefits of networked technologies. I examine its origins in the wake of the dotcom bubble, when technology makers sought to develop a new business model to support online commerce. By leveraging user data for advertising purposes, they contributed to an information environment in which every action leaves behind traces collected by companies for commercial purposes. Through analysis of primary source materials produced by technology makers, journalists, and business analysts, I examine the emergence of data capitalism between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s and its central role in the contemporary information economy. (Author abstract.)
Computational social science methods provide a better understanding of how social work education programs use Twitter. Data mining and sentiment analysis of 2,509 tweets were conducted using the Information, Community, and Action conceptual framework. Programs primarily tweet content related to the theme of Information and the tone of the tweets are mainly positive. Statistics such as the number of followers, number of tweets, types of hashtags (#) used, and when tweets are shared during the day are also provided to illustrate how programs use Twitter. A composite score was also developed to highlight the top 10 social work programs on Twitter. Implications for social work education are given along with suggestions for programs in developing a social media strategy. (Author abstract.)