The Living Library’s 2023 Book Recap: Our 5X5 Curation

The GovLab
Data Stewards Network
20 min readDec 6, 2023


By: Stefaan G. Verhulst and Maria Esther Cervantes

Welcome to our end-of-year 5 x 5 curation of books published in 2023: five books across five domains!

Image generated using DALL-E.

Every week, the Living Library, and its newsletter, The Digest, curate the most up-to-date knowledge on governance and data innovation. As we bid farewell to 2023, we took a moment to select five books across five domains (5X5):

  • data stewardship,
  • governance and innovation,
  • collective intelligence and democracy,
  • information ecosystems, and
  • artificial intelligence.

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Data Stewardship

Principles of Knowledge Auditing: Foundations for Knowledge Management Implementation

Book by Patrick Lambe: In Principles of Knowledge Auditing, Patrick Lambe integrates the theory and practices of the field, laying out principles and guidelines for a clearer and more pragmatic approach to knowledge auditing that makes it more accessible to practitioners and researchers. Lambe examines knowledge auditing in the context of the development of communications, information, and knowledge management in the twentieth century. He critiques and clarifies ambiguities in how knowledge audits are approached and described, as well as how the results are conveyed within organizations. He discusses the benefits and risks of knowledge management standards. Knowledge auditors, he says, need a common frame of reference more than they need standards. Standards have their uses, but they provide only markers and signposts and are poor representations of the richness of the landscape.

Escape from Model Land

Blog and book by Erica Thompson: “Mathematical models are here to stay. Whether they are determining supply chain vulnerabilities, demonstrating regulatory compliance, or informing policies for a zero-carbon future, quantitative models are at the heart of modern societies. And as computers become more powerful and more readily accessible, artificial intelligence and machine learning models are also being applied in many new areas.”

We, the Data

Book by Wendy H. Wong: Our data-intensive world is here to stay, but does that come at the cost of our humanity in terms of autonomy, community, dignity, and equality? In We, the Data, Wendy H. Wong argues that we cannot allow that to happen. Exploring the pervasiveness of data collection and tracking, Wong reminds us that we are all stakeholders in this digital world, who are currently being left out of the most pressing conversations around technology, ethics, and policy. This book clarifies the nature of datafication and calls for an extension of human rights to recognize how data complicates what it means to safeguard and encourage human potential.

Data Is Everybody’s Business

Book by Barbara H. Wixom, Cynthia M. Beath and Leslie Owens: Most organizations view data monetization — converting data into money — too narrowly: as merely selling data sets. But data monetization is a core business activity for both commercial and noncommercial organizations, and, within organizations, it’s critical to have wide-ranging support for this pursuit. In Data Is Everybody’s Business, the authors offer a clear and engaging way for people across the entire organization to understand data monetization and make it happen. The authors identify three viable ways to convert data into money — improving work with data, wrapping products with data, and selling information offerings — and explain when to pursue each and how to succeed.

Sharing Health Data: The Why, the Will, and the Way Forward

Book edited by Claudia, Grossmann, Peak Sean Chua, Mahnoor et al.: “Sharing health data and information across stakeholder groups is the bedrock of a learning health system. As data and information are increasingly combined across various sources, their generative value to transform health, health care, and health equity increases significantly. Facilitating this potential is an escalating surge of digital technologies (i.e., cloud computing, broadband and wireless solutions, digital health technologies, and application programming interfaces [APIs]) that, with each successive generation, not only enhance data sharing, but also improve in their ability to preserve privacy and identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks. These technological advances, coupled with notable policy developments, new interoperability standards (particularly the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources [FHIR] standard), and the launch of innovative payment models within the last decade, have resulted in a greater recognition of the value of health data sharing among patients, providers, and researchers. Consequently, a number of data sharing collaborations are emerging across the healthcare ecosystem.”

Governance and Innovation

Handbook on Adaptive Governance

Book edited by Sirkku Juhola: “The interconnectedness of global society is increasingly visible through crises such as the current global health pandemic, emerging climate change impacts and increasing erosion of biodiversity. This timely Handbook navigates the challenges of adaptive governance in these complex contexts, stressing the necessarily compounded nature of bio-physical and social systems to ensure more desirable governance outcomes.”

The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps Our Economies

Book by Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington: The “Big Con” describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis. It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks — as advisors, legitimators, and outsourcers — and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity. In the end, the Big Con weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments, and warps our economies.

The Government Analytics Handbook

(Open Access) Book edited by Daniel Rogger and Christian Schuster: Governments across the world make thousands of personnel management decisions, procure millions of goods and services, and execute billions of processes each day. They are data rich. And yet, there is little systematic practice to-date which capitalizes on this data to make public administrations work better. This means that governments are missing out on data insights to save billions in procurement expenditures, recruit better talent into government, and identify sources of corruption, to name just a few. The Government Analytics Handbook seeks to change that. It presents frontier evidence and practitioner insights on how to leverage data to make governments work better. Covering a range of microdata sources — such as administrative data and public servant surveys — as well as tools and resources for undertaking the analytics, it transforms the ability of governments to take a data-informed approach to diagnose and improve how public organizations work.

Big Data and Public Policy

Book by Rebecca Moody and Victor Bekkers: “This book provides a comprehensive overview of how the course, content and outcome of policy making is affected by big data. It scrutinizes the notion that big and open data makes policymaking a more rational process, in which policy makers are able to predict, assess and evaluate societal problems. It also examines how policy makers deal with big data, the problems and limitations they face, and how big data shapes policymaking on the ground. The book considers big data from various perspectives, not just the political, but also the technological, legal, institutional and ethical dimensions. The potential of big data use in the public sector is also assessed, as well as the risks and dangers this might pose. Through several extended case studies, it demonstrates the dynamics of big data and public policy. Offering a holistic approach to the study of big data, this book will appeal to students and scholars of public policy, public administration and data science, as well as those interested in governance and politics.”

Recoding America: Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better

Book by Jennifer Pahlka: “Just when we most need our government to work — to decarbonize our infrastructure and economy, to help the vulnerable through a pandemic, to defend ourselves against global threats — it is faltering. Government at all levels has limped into the digital age, offering online services that can feel even more cumbersome than the paperwork that preceded them and widening the gap between the policy outcomes we intend and what we get.

But it’s not more money or more tech we need. Government is hamstrung by a rigid, industrial-era culture, in which elites dictate policy from on high, disconnected from and too often disdainful of the details of implementation. Lofty goals morph unrecognizably as they cascade through a complex hierarchy. But there is an approach taking hold that keeps pace with today’s world and reclaims government for the people it is supposed to serve. Jennifer Pahlka shows why we must stop trying to move the government we have today onto new technology and instead consider what it would mean to truly recode American government.”

Collective Intelligence and Democracy

The Routledge Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance

Open Access Book edited by Stephen Boucher, Carina Antonia Hallin, and Lex Paulson: “…explores the concepts, methodologies, and implications of collective intelligence for democratic governance, in the first comprehensive survey of this field.

Illustrated by a collection of inspiring case studies and edited by three pioneers in collective intelligence, this handbook serves as a unique primer on the science of collective intelligence applied to public challenges and will inspire public actors, academics, students, and activists across the world to apply collective intelligence in policy making and administration to explore its potential, both to foster policy innovations and reinvent democracy.”

De Gruyter Handbook of Citizens’ Assemblies

Book edited by Min Reuchamps, Julien Vrydagh and Yanina Welp: “Citizens’ Assemblies (CAs) are flourishing around the world. Quite often composed of randomly selected citizens, CAs, arguably, come as a possible answer to contemporary democratic challenges. Democracies worldwide are indeed confronted with a series of disruptive phenomena such as a widespread perception of distrust and growing polarization as well as low performance. Many actors seek to reinvigorate democracy with citizen participation and deliberation. CAs are expected to have the potential to meet this twofold objective. But, despite the deliberative and inclusive qualities of CAs, many questions remain open. The increasing popularity of CAs call for a holistic reflection and evaluation on their origins, current uses and future directions.

The De Gruyter Handbook of Citizens’ Assemblies showcases the state of the art around the study of CAs and opens novel perspectives informed by multidisciplinary research and renewed thinking about deliberative participatory processes. It discusses the latest theoretical, empirical, and methodological scientific developments on CAs and offers a unique resource for scholars, decision-makers, practitioners, and curious citizens to better understand the qualities, purposes, promises but also pitfalls of CAs.”

The Government of Chance: Sortition and Democracy from Athens to the Present

Book by Yves Sintomer: “Electoral democracies are struggling. Sintomer, in this instructive book, argues for democratic innovations. One such innovation is using random selection to create citizen bodies with advisory or decisional political power. ‘Sortition’ has a long political history. Coupled with elections, it has represented an important yet often neglected dimension of Republican and democratic government, and has been reintroduced in the Global North, China and Mexico. The Government of Chance explores why sortation is returning, how it is coupled with deliberation, and why randomly selected ‘mini publics’ and citizens’ assemblies are flourishing. Relying on a growing international and interdisciplinary literature, Sintomer provides the first systematic and theoretical reconstruction of the government of chance from Athens to the present. Under what conditions can it be rational? What lessons can be drawn from history? The Government of Chance therefore clarifies the democratic imaginaries at stake: deliberative, anti-political, and radical, making a plaidoyer for the latter.”

The Design of Digital Democracy

Book by Gianluca Sgueo: This book explores various aspects of the relationship between democracy, technology and entertainment. These include, on the one hand, the role that digital technology has in strengthening our collective intelligence, nurturing empathic relations between citizens and democratic institutions, and supporting processes of political aggregation, deliberation and collaboration. On the other hand, they comprise the challenges accompanying digital technology for representation, transparency and inclusivity in democratic decision-making.

The book’s main argument is that digital democratic spaces should be redesigned to narrow the gap between the expectations and outcomes of democratic decision-making. It suggests abandoning the notion of digital participatory rights as being fast and easy to enjoy. It also refutes the notion that digital democratic decision-making can only be effective when it delivers rapid and successful responses to the issues of the day, regardless of their complexity.

The Rise of Virtual Communities

Book by Amber Atherton: “Uncover the fascinating history of virtual communities and how we connect to each other online. The Rise of Virtual Communities, explores the earliest online community platforms, mapping the technological evolutions, and the individuals, that have shaped the culture of the internet.

Read in-depth interviews with the visionary founders of iconic online platforms, and uncover the history of virtual communities and how the industry has developed over time. Featuring never-before told stories, this exploration introduces new ideas and predictions for the future, explaining how we got here and challenging what we think we may know about building online communities.”

Information Ecosystems

Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity

Book by Sander van der Linden: “From fake news to conspiracy theories, from pandemics to politics, misinformation may be the defining problem of our era. Like a virus, misinformation infects our minds — altering our beliefs and replicating at astonishing rates. Once the virus takes hold, our primary strategies of fact-checking and debunking are an insufficient cure.” In Foolproof, Sander van der Linden describes how to inoculate yourself and others against the spread of misinformation, discern fact from fiction and push back against methods of mass persuasion. Everyone is susceptible to fake news. There are polarizing narratives in society, conspiracy theories are rife, fake experts dole out misleading advice and accuracy is often lost in favor of sensationalist headlines. So how and why does misinformation spread if we’re all aware of its existence? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

The Fifth Estate: The Power Shift of the Digital Age

Book by William H. Dutton: In The Fifth Estate, Dutton uses estate theory to illuminate the most important power shift of the digital age. He argues that this network power shift is not only enabling greater democratic accountability in politics and governance but is also empowering networked individuals in their everyday life and work, from checking facts to making civic-minded social interventions. By marshaling world leading research and case studies in a wide range of contexts, Dutton demonstrates that the internet and related digital media are enabling ordinary individuals to search, create, network, collaborate, and leak information in such independent and strategic ways that they enhance their informational and communicative power vis-à-vis other actors and institutions. Dutton also makes the case that internet policy interventions across the globe have increased censorship of users and introduced levels of surveillance that will challenge the vitality of the internet and the Fifth Estate, along with its more pluralist distribution of power. Ambitious and timely, Dutton provides an understanding of the Fifth Estate and its democratic potential so that networked individuals and institutions around the world can maintain and enhance its role in our digital age.

The Market Power of Technology: Understanding the Second Gilded Age

Book by Mordecai Kurz: Mordecai Kurz develops a comprehensive integrated theory of the dynamics of market power and income inequality. He shows that technological innovations are not simply sources of growth and progress: they sow the seeds of market power. In a free market economy with intellectual property rights, firms’ control over technology enables them to expand, attain monopoly power, and earn exorbitant profits. Competition among innovators does not eliminate market power because technological competition is different from standard competition; it results in only one or two winners. Kurz provides a pioneering analysis grounded on quantifying technological market power and its effects on inequality, innovation, and economic growth. He outlines what causes market power to rise and fall and details its macroeconomic and distributional consequences.

Kurz demonstrates that technological market power tends to rise, increasing inequality of income and wealth. Unchecked inequality threatens the foundations of democracy: public policy is the only counterbalancing force that can restrain corporate power, attain more egalitarian distribution of wealth, and make democracy compatible with capitalism. Presenting a new paradigm for understanding today’s vast inequalities, this book offers detailed proposals to redress them by restricting corporate mergers and acquisitions, reforming patent law, improving the balance of power in the labor market, increasing taxation, promoting upward mobility, and stabilizing the middle class.

Networked Press Freedom

Book by Mike Ananny: “…offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux. Ananny challenges the idea that press freedom comes only from heroic, lone journalists who speak truth to power. Instead, drawing on journalism studies, institutional sociology, political theory, science and technology studies, and an analysis of ten years of journalism discourse about news and technology, he argues that press freedom emerges from social, technological, institutional, and normative forces that vie for power and fight for visions of democratic life. He shows how dominant, historical ideals of professionalized press freedom often mistook journalistic freedom from constraints for the public’s freedom to encounter the rich mix of people and ideas that self-governance requires. Ananny’s notion of press freedom ensures not only an individual right to speak, but also a public right to hear.

Seeing press freedom as essential for democratic self-governance, Ananny explores what publics need, what kind of free press they should demand, and how today’s press freedom emerges from intertwined collections of humans and machines. If someone says, “The public needs a free press,” Ananny urges us to ask in response, “What kind of public, what kind of freedom, and what kind of press?”

On Disinformation: How to Fight for Truth and Protect Democracy

Book by Lee McIntyre: “The effort to destroy facts and make America ungovernable didn’t come out of nowhere. It is the culmination of seventy years of strategic denialism. In On Disinformation, Lee McIntyre shows how the war on facts began, and how ordinary citizens can fight back against the scourge of disinformation that is now threatening the very fabric of our society. Drawing on his twenty years of experience as a scholar of science denial, McIntyre explains how autocrats wield disinformation to manipulate a populace and deny obvious realities, why the best way to combat disinformation is to disrupt its spread, and most importantly, how we can win the war on truth.

McIntyre takes readers through the history of strategic denialism to show how we arrived at this precarious political moment and identifies the creators, amplifiers, and believers of disinformation. Along the way, he also demonstrates how today’s “reality denial” follows the same flawed blueprint of the “five steps of science denial” used by climate deniers and anti-vaxxers; shows how Trump has emulated disinformation tactics created by Russian and Soviet intelligence dating back to the 1920s; provides interviews with leading experts on information warfare, counterterrorism, and political extremism; and spells out the need for algorithmic transparency from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. On Disinformation lays out ten everyday practical steps that we can take as ordinary citizens — from resisting polarization to pressuring our Congresspeople to regulate social media — as well as the important steps our government (if we elect the right leaders) must take.”

Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology

Book by Anu Bradford: “The global battle among the three dominant digital powers — the United States, China, and the European Union — is intensifying. All three regimes are racing to regulate tech companies, with each advancing a competing vision for the digital economy while attempting to expand its sphere of influence in the digital world. In Digital Empires, her provocative follow-up to The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford explores a rivalry that will shape the world in the decades to come.

Across the globe, people dependent on digital technologies have become increasingly alarmed that their rapid adoption and transformation have ushered in an exceedingly concentrated economy where a few powerful companies control vast economic wealth and political power, undermine data privacy, and widen the gap between economic winners and losers. In response, world leaders are variously embracing the idea of reining in the most dominant tech companies. Bradford examines three competing regulatory approaches — the American market-driven model, the Chinese state-driven model, and the European rights-driven regulatory model — and discusses how governments and tech companies navigate the inevitable conflicts that arise when these regulatory approaches collide in the international domain. Which digital empire will prevail in the contest for global influence remains an open question, yet their contrasting strategies are increasingly clear.”

Artificial Intelligence

Algorithms of Education: How Datafication and Artificial Intelligence Shape Policy

Book by Kalervo N. Gulson, Sam Sellar, and P. Taylor Webb: “While the science fiction tales of artificial intelligence eclipsing humanity are still very much fantasies, in Algorithms of Education the authors tell real stories of how algorithms and machines are transforming education governance, providing a fascinating discussion and critique of data and its role in education policy.

Algorithms of Education explores how, for policy makers, today’s ever-growing amount of data creates the illusion of greater control over the educational futures of students and the work of school leaders and teachers. In fact, the increased datafication of education, the authors argue, offers less and less control, as algorithms and artificial intelligence further abstract the educational experience and distance policy makers from teaching and learning. Focusing on the changing conditions for education policy and governance, Algorithms of Education proposes that schools and governments are increasingly turning to “synthetic governance” — a governance where what is human and machine becomes less clear — as a strategy for optimizing education. exploring case studies of data infrastructures, facial recognition, and the growing use of data science in education, Algorithms of Education draws on a wide variety of fields — from critical theory and media studies to science and technology studies and education policy studies — mapping the political and methodological directions for engaging with datafication and artificial intelligence in education governance. According to the authors, we must go beyond the debates that separate humans and machines in order to develop new strategies for, and a new politics of, education.”

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence for the Sustainable Development Goals

Book by Francesca Mazzi and Luciano Floridi: “Artificial intelligence (AI) as a general-purpose technology has great potential for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, the AI×SDGs phenomenon is still in its infancy in terms of diffusion, analysis, and empirical evidence. Moreover, a scalable adoption of AI solutions to advance the achievement of the SDGs requires private and public actors to engage in coordinated actions that have been analyzed only partially so far. This volume provides the first overview of the AI×SDGs phenomenon and its related challenges and opportunities. The first part of the book adopts a programmatic approach, discussing AI×SDGs at a theoretical level and from the perspectives of different stakeholders. The second part illustrates existing projects and potential new applications.”

Our Planet Powered by AI: How We Use Artificial Intelligence to Create a Sustainable Future for Humanity

Book by Mark Minevich: “…You’ll learn to create sustainable, effective competitive advantage by introducing previously unheard-of levels of adaptability, resilience, and innovation into your company. Using real-world case studies from a variety of well-known industry leaders, the author explains the strategic archetypes, technological infrastructures, and cultures of sustainability you’ll need to ensure your firm’s next-level digital transformation takes root. You’ll also discover:

  • How AI can enable new business strategies, models, and ecosystems of innovation and growth
  • How to develop societal impact and powerful organizational benefits with ethical AI implementations that incorporate transparency, fairness, privacy, and reliability
  • What it means to enable all-inclusive artificial intelligence

An engaging and hands-on exploration of how to take your firm to new levels of dynamism and growth, Our Planet Powered by AI will earn a place in the libraries of managers, executives, directors, and other business and technology leaders seeking to distinguish their companies in a new age of astonishing technological advancement and fierce competition.”

AI and Big Data: Disruptive Regulation

Book by Mark Findlay, Josephine Seah, and Willow Wong: “This provocative and timely book identifies and disrupts the conventional regulation and governance discourses concerning AI and big data. It suggests that, instead of being used as tools for exclusionist commercial markets, AI and big data can be employed in governing digital transformation for social good.

Analyzing the ways in which global technology companies have colonized data access, the book reveals how trust, ethics, and digital self-determination can be reconsidered and engaged to promote the interests of marginalized stakeholders in data arrangement. Chapters examine the regulation of labor engagement in digital economies, the landscape of AI ethics, and a multitude of questions regarding participation, costs, and sustainability. Presenting several informative case studies, the book challenges some of the accepted qualifiers of frontier tech and data use and proposes innovative ways of actioning the more conventional regulatory components of big data.

Scholars and students in information and media law, regulation and governance, and law and politics will find this book to be critical reading. It will also be of interest to policymakers and the AI and data science community.”

The Age of Prediction: Algorithms, AI, and the Shifting Shadows of Risk

Book by Igor Tulchinsky and Christopher E. Mason: “… about two powerful, and symbiotic, trends: the rapid development and use of artificial intelligence and big data to enhance prediction, as well as the often paradoxical effects of these better predictions on our understanding of risk and the ways we live. Beginning with dramatic advances in quantitative investing and precision medicine, this book explores how predictive technology is quietly reshaping our world in fundamental ways, from crime fighting and warfare to monitoring individual health and elections.

As prediction grows more robust, it also alters the nature of the accompanying risk, setting up unintended and unexpected consequences. The Age of Prediction details how predictive certainties can bring about complacency or even an increase in risks — genomic analysis might lead to unhealthier lifestyles or a GPS might encourage less attentive driving. With greater predictability also comes a degree of mystery, and the authors ask how narrower risks might affect markets, insurance, or risk tolerance generally. Can we ever reduce risk to zero? Should we even try? This book lays an intriguing groundwork for answering these fundamental questions and maps out the latest tools and technologies that power these projections into the future, sometimes using novel, cross-disciplinary tools to map out cancer growth, people’s medical risks, and stock dynamics.”

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