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ODI Fridays: Data is not an avocado – why it matters to Gen Z

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Fri Sep 17, 2021 13:00

Why common metaphors don’t work, what it means for delivering a sustainable data policy, and how we include future generations

Join us on Zoom at lunchtime for our regular ODI Fridays talks. Once you’ve signed up, we’ll send you the link to join.

The National Data Strategy is part of a conversation about the way data is used in the UK. A new report from defenddigitalme describes why it matters that the words used in that conversation alienate young people.

Jen Persson, Founder of defenddigitalme will discuss why common metaphors don’t work, what it means for the success or failure of delivering a sustainable data policy, and what needs to change.

Data is the new avocado” might describe the decaying shelf life of records, but not much more. “The new oil” cannot tell a child’s life story. Being framed as “the fuel of artificial intelligence” leaves people feeling used. These metaphors fail to describe the multi-faceted nature of personal data, and do not reflect its incompleteness, accuracy, or the authentic self. The language of commodities doesn’t work on their terms or engender the respect young people want to see for the person the data is about. And while the language on data doesn’t fit with young people’s expectations, it doesn’t fit well with our legal frameworks for data governance either.

“The world in thirty years is going to be unrecognizably datamined and it’s going to be really fun to watch,” said Jose Ferreira, then CEO of the adaptive learning company Knewton, at the White House US Datapalooza in 2012. Nearly ten years on, young people don’t find it fun but they do feel exploited.

defenddigitalme’s new report based on research together with Hattusia and the Warren Youth Project, proposes how to reconcile the focus, governance frameworks, and content of the UK national data strategy, to move the conversation forward in ways that work for the economy and research, and include our future generation.

About the speaker

Founder of defenddigitalme, Jen Persson campaigns for safe, fair, and transparent data in education, in England and beyond. Defenddigitalme has been advocating for the rights of the 23 million people in the National Pupil Database since 2015, most recently through regulatory action, building on the work of many others.

In The State of Data 2020 report defenddigitalme published a mapping of the most common data flows for a child in England’s state education system, from the seven compulsory censuses a year and eight sets of statutory testing, through to some of the most popular local edTech tools used for administration, assessment, behavioural tracking, and for teaching and learning. The report calls for a new approach to digital rights in schools to build a rights’ respecting environment by 2030, and makes recommendations on how to achieve it.

Jen was a Subject Matter Expert to the Council of Europe 2019-20 during the drafting of Guidelines for Children’s Data Protection in Educational Settings, adopted in November 2020 and she was a joint-recipient of the 2021 Michal-Serzycki-Award from the Polish Data Protection Authority.

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