Summer Reading List from The GovLab’s Data Research Program

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Looking for a data-driven and data research program recommended beach read?

In this special edition, The GovLab releases its summer reading list of engaging and pertinent literature around data. These readings — which cover artificial intelligence, collective intelligence, data and digital ecosystems, and risks and challenges — are selected from our curation of books and articles around data and AI, governance, and innovation in the Living Library.

Artificial Intelligence

Buchanan, Ben, and Andrew Imbrie. The New Fire: War, Peace, and Democracy in the Age of AI. MIT Press, 2022.

Policy practitioners Buchanan and Imbrie compare the invention of AI to the discovery of fire: When harnessed responsibly, it is a force for good but wielded carelessly, it will wreak havoc. They break down the “new fire” of AI into three sections: data, algorithms, and computing power and examine how each “spark” can be used to achieve utopian and dystopian ends by governments.

Read more about the book here.

Findlay, Mark, and Jolyon Ford, Josephine Seah, and Dilan Thampapillai. Regulatory Insights on Artificial Intelligence. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022.

In this book, the authors explore the relationship between existing laws and regulations and AI governance to understand how policy can be used to check AI and harness its power for good. They examine key issues around data collection and privacy, data (re)use, IP rights, and surveillance to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of AI to call for more innovative, socially-oriented regulation.

Learn more about the book here.

Lapenta, Francesco. Our Common AI Future — A Geopolitical Analysis and Road Map, for AI Driven Sustainable Development, Science and Data Diplomacy. DataEthics, 2021.

​Professor Lapenta looks at the past, present, and future of AI innovation and its relationship with the Sustainable Development Goals. He contextualizes global action on AI regulation and uses existing data principles, data sharing structures, and data stewardship practices. He calls on global governance practices that codify “red lines” for AI to prohibit its use in ways that pose an “ethical or existential threat to humanity and the planet.” He also advocates for “green zones” for multilateral cooperation and scientific cooperation to advance AI research.

Learn more about the book here.

Mantelero, Alessandro, Beyond Data: Human Rights, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment in AI. T.M.C. Asser Press The Hague. 2022.

In this book, Alessandro Mantelero, Associate Professor of Private Law and Law & Technology at the Polytechnic University of Turin, examines the impact of artificial intelligence on individuals and society from a legal perspective. He then provides “ a comprehensive risk-based methodological framework to address it” that highlights the limits of data protection and offers solutions based in human rights and societal value. The piece draws extensively on current and future European policy and regulation.

Learn more here.

Crowdsourcing and Collective Intelligence

Baltzersen, Rolf K. Cultural-Historical Perspectives on Collective Intelligence: Patterns in Problem Solving and Innovation. Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Humankind has been working together to solve problems since the dawn of time. Professor Baltzersen looks at how this collective problem solving has transformed in the digital era, examining the ways in which we collaborate, the media we use, and the strategies deployed in an online environment. He also looks at how collective intelligence initiatives will change with the rise of AI and machine learning increasingly supporting human decision-making.

Find more about the free PDF here.

Randma-Liiv, Tiina, and Veiko Lember. Engaging Citizens in Policy Making: e-Participation Practices in Europe. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022.

Researchers Randma-Liiv and Lember gather different techniques and examples of e-participation in policymaking and governance from across Europe at national and local levels. From this case-based analysis, they uncover successful tactics and enabling factors for greater citizen and government involvement through digital tools.

Learn more about the open access book here.

Verma, Neeta, Citizen Empowerment through Digital Transformation in Government. Taylor & Francis Group. 2021.

In this book edited by Neeta Verma, a variety of authors describe the ways that technologies and platforms are facilitating greater citizen engagement with government. Relying on real-world examples from India, where information and communications technology has played a major role, it describes how institutions can deliver citizen-centric services and empower individuals working across sectors.

Learn more about the book here.

Digital and Data Ecosystems

Anwar, Mohammad Amir, and Mark Graham. The Digital Continent: Placing Africa in Planetary Networks of Work. Oxford University Press, 2022.

The past decade has seen an explosion in digital connections between individuals, especially within African states. In a world where location is not a major limiting factor for socio-economic opportunity due to global online connectivity, digital work creates new prospects for African workers. The authors present the findings of their five-year longitudinal study of workers in South Africa, Kenya Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda to understand how the future of work — through online platforms, remote setups, and call and contact centers — will impact African workers.

Find more about the open-access book here.

Bronson, Kelly, The Immaculate Conception of Data: Agribusiness, Activists, and Their Shared Politics of the Future. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022.

“The Immaculate Conception of Data” reviews the legal agreements around agricultural big data. It explores both the concentration of data within large corporations. It also examines “the work of corporate scientists, farmers using the data, and activist ‘hackers’ building open-source data platforms.” She argues that these groups share a way of speaking about data and its value for the future.

Read more here.

Beaulieu, Anne, Sabina Leonelli. Data and Society: A Critical Introduction. SAGE Publishing, 2021.

Professors Beaulieu and Leonelli argue that data is a valuable “technological, social, economic and scientific resource” that stands at the crux of human life and society. They discuss the role and importance of data, applying a multidisciplinary lens that reveals its value in everything from health and genetics to sports. They close with a framework on using data as a storytelling and decision-making tool in a responsible manner.

Learn more about the book here.

Gwilt, Ian. Making Data: Materializing Digital Information. Bloomsbury, 2022.

In this edited anthology, contributors discuss new ways of presenting data through artifacts, environments, and digital objects for better visualization and understanding of information. Applying these practices to ecology, smart cities, and augmented reality, they show how data can be shaped and presented for widespread and creative understanding of information that goes beyond statistics and spreadsheets.

Learn more about the book here.

Lapucci, Massimo, and Ciro Cattuto. Data Science for Social Good: Philanthropy and Social Impact in a Complex World. Springer Cham, 2021.

The digital transformation has reframed data and data science as tools for enhancing social good. In this edited volume, contributors look at the value of data collection, data collaboratives, and data sharing for public good, international development, and grantmaking.

Access the piece here.

Sauda, Eric, Ginette Wessel, and Alireza Karduni. Social Media and the Contemporary City. Routledge, 2021.

The authors look at how the deluge of mobile data has impacted urban space planning and activity. Divided into four parts, the book looks at examples of how social media and mobile phone data have been used in protest culture, local economic activity, art and culture, and violence and extremism. Their research shows how new networks and media have influenced the way communities organize and communicate among themselves through smartphone innovation.

Learn more about the book here.

Risks and Challenges

Brevini, Benedetta. Is AI Good for the Planet? Polity, 2021.

Brevini exposes the environmental costs of AI, specifically by investigating how the technology “depletes scarce resources” and “deman[ds] excessive energy use.” Her book looks at AI’s impacts from an environmental perspective — nuancing traditional, innovation-focused views of the technology’s benefits to society. She makes the case for centering green approaches in the use and development of AI to address climate change amid a technological revolution.

Learn more about the book here.

Hare, Stephanie. Technology is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics. London Publishing Press, 2022.

Hare argues that technology is not neutral, which is why a technology tool can be applied for good and for evil. She explores avenues to use technology in a harm-minimizing way to reframe technology ethics conversations in a context-specific and actionable manner.

Learn more about the book here.

Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. Don’t Trust Your Gut. HarperCollins, 2022.

Traditionally, people undertake self improvement with advice from their closest friends and family and their intuition. Data scientist Stephens-Davidowitz takes a different approach to life’s biggest decisions: he advocates for data-driven decision-making. From dating to career planning, he looks at the data collected over the past multiple decades to discern smarter ways of making choices and improving our lives.

Buy the book here.

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