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Checking Assumptions aND promoting responsibility In smart Development projects

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CANDID (Checking Assumptions aND promoting responsibility In smart Development projects)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

The overall goal of CANDID was to understand better the conditions that could facilitate collaboration between different epistemic networks in interdisciplinary work, such as Social Science & Humanities (SSH) scholars and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) practitioners. Specifically, the project had three objectives:

1) To facilitate an expanded and intensive dialogue aiming at Responsible Research and Innovation between SSH researchers and researchers, engineers and innovators in the ICT - LEIT domains. This dialogue was articulated as a multi-directional check on assumptions: on predominant ICT - LEIT imaginaries and innovation agendas; and on the presuppositions operative in SSH communities who interact in one way or the other with ICT - LEIT communities, collaborate or work alongside them.
2) To describe and critically assess visions of 'smart', as they emerge within the ICT - LEIT programmes in Horizon 2020, and in public discourse more generally.
3) To describe and produce, in the form of distinct Modules, insights on crucial topics on Science and Society intersections, as they play out within and in relation to visions of 'smart'. The Modules are: User and Design Configurations; Risks, Rights and Engineering; and Sensing Infrastructures. More specifically, the modules focused on: 1) the role of users in smart technologies, 2) efforts to safeguard privacy and data protection in data-driven smart environments, and 3) infrastructures that sense, and, perhaps, think and act, and 4) smart as a discourse, and as innovation policy development in these areas.

Findings in the first three modules were exposed to various quality checks on knowledge and assumptions, in which: firstly, a body of fairly established social, humanities and legal scholarship findings about smart ICT topics have been established; second, this body of knowledge has been communicated to networks of ‘extended peer reviewers’ (people possessing relevant professional or experiential knowledge), and, thirdly, written and oral (i.e. through interviews and workshops) feedbacks have been gathered from the peer networks and included into the initial analysis. In addition, findings were exposed to methods of discourse analysis of the social, political, rethorical and strategic roles of 'smart' technologies. We claim that this is a methodological approach that can be applied in different contexts and at various levels of institutionalisation and technological innovation. More specifically, CANDID had three main objectives:
We have carried out written consultations (70 active participants), interviews (53), and a workshop (11 participants outside of the consortium members). These are indicators of concrete provisions of mutual checks on assumptions, carried out as exchanges of knowledge and perspectives between variously implied groups, centrally those of ICT and SSH practitioners. For this purpose, we have also maintained an active website, a Twitter account and a Researchgate website. Finally, two tools have been developed, The Primer and the CANDID Dataviz tool, that will be put into further circulation. During the course of the project we organised 5 meetings, some of which also included the extended peer participants of the project.

Our main strategy (from the pre-kick-off meeting) was to focus on the core of ICT and SSH experts involved in various kinds of smart projects, then expand towards larger segments (in a snowballing fashion), with excluded and vulnerable groups at the outer extremes, since these are the hardest to reach and to engage. Again, as occupying a kind of mediary position between these extremes, there would be public servants, and representatives of various ‘stakeholder’ groups. As the work to engage peers in communication started, what took place was a diversification (because the categories are very broad). These developments were shaped by practical circumstances, case specific needs, working methodologies, connections, and local possibilities and restraints.
General findings, cross-cutting all modules

1. ‘Smart’ as a concept. No single or unitary meaning can be applied to the concept of 'smart'. Certain elements can be singled out, such as pervasive digitalisation, empowerment of users, making of new services and a general orientation towards problem-solving and design. Yet, we may ask whether the primary role of the concept is strategic and feeding into political agendas, rather than technical. There is a need to clarify the concept, especially when applied for projects aimed at some societal intervention and improvement.

2. Inclusion/exclusion. There should be more sustained attention to individuals, groups and communities left out of smart development projects, or are at risk from being left out. Certain groups are labelled as 'laggards', or as 'late adopters', or (sometimes) ignored altogether, but many times these groups have different needs and interests form early adapters.

3. Role and quality of data. There is a need for critical scholarship on the many roles and uses made for data (kin various forms), and for ways of communicating such knowledge to policy makers. In several of our cases we see that even quite raw and inconclusive data are used by actors for strategic purposes.

4. Conflations of citizens' roles in smart projects. There is a strong tendency for smart technologies and projects to be promoted as user-centric. Yet, in practice there is a parallel tendency to construct citizens as rather passive agents.

5. Interdisciplinarity. Whereas interdisciplinarity is highlighted as necessary for the implementation of smart projects and technologies as socially responsive, in practice such collaborations often do not live up to expectations. Special difficulties arise as social science scholars or lawyers are expected to collaborate with engineers and innovators. It is frequently argued that SSH (social sciences and humanities) scholars are too critical, and rather stay outside of processes than engage with them. On the other hand, SSH scholars and lawyers may also feel that their methods and unique approaches require some critical distance from the activities of engineers and innovators.

The CANDID project was a success insofar as it carried out an orchestrated process, in which different aspects and parts of the research process would flow into and inform research in other parts of the project. We especially highlight the following:

• Ever-closer and intensifying entanglements of (big) data, sensing infrastructures and bureaucracy, and the public role of data – deploying concepts of regimes and networks
• Intensifying entanglements of law, regulation and smart technologies, ‘techno-regulation’ – law interacting with risk management and design
• New and more nuanced conceptualisations of the concept of ‘user’, partially extending on, partially criticising, major recent works in this field
• A discourse analytical and rhetorical analysis of concepts of smartness, with obvious relevance for related fields such as IoT, Fourth Revolution, Big Data, and so on
• Engagements with various strands of recent (STS) scholarship, dealing with infrastructure, design, public reasoning, markets and economics, networked ways of knowing and innovating, futures, visions and imaginaries, public engagements, responsibility, and more.
Where the project was conceived
Waag Society building
Final Conference Amsterdam
Kick-off meeting Barcelona
Meeting with peers in Barcelona