Caroline A. Jones, Daniel J. Weitzner, Patricia Williams, and Ethan Zuckerman

Data Magic and Democracy: privacy, politics, and transmedia storytelling

A Transmedia Storytelling Initiative event featuring Caroline A. Jones, Daniel J. Weitzner, Patricia Williams, and Ethan Zuckerman.
5:30–7:30 PM, Register here and watch the webcast.

Just weeks before the US presidential election, we invite you to an online public conversation central to our embattled democracy. Join leading scholars who will address internet policy, infrastructure, and ethics as, together with MIT’s Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, we examine the role of documentary and fiction films in shaping how we think about our data.

Documentaries and fiction films are among the most powerful cultural tools we have for stimulating important public conversations around data, privacy, and democracy. Urgent concerns with justice intensify the question: who owns our data, what algorithms sift it, and who decides what decisions it drives?  This online event (postponed owing to the closure of MIT’s campus last Spring) is made even more timely by recent revelations of the continued harvesting of data and foreign scams on social media, attempting to sway the upcoming US elections and sow doubt in the democratic process. How do we understand the interplay between our data and these social media? The "magic" of data is often evoked in cinema by swirling bits that vent from bodies and machines ("data sweat"), flowing numerals, bodies made of code, or massive diagrams of how it all connects.  Are these visual tropes effective for helping the public understand the infrastructures of data gathering, our personal roles as data producers, how industries deploy our data, and the need for privacy controls? The Great Hack joins The Fifth Estate, Citizen 4, For Everyone, and The Inventor as recent films posing questions about how information and technology circulate, how they attract financial backing, and how data becomes a commodified product in our economy, often fueled by venture capital and extravagant promises of political impact or public good. 

Caroline A. Jones, Daniel J. Weitzner, Patricia Williams, and Ethan Zuckerman

Caroline A. JonesMIT - moderator; Director, Transmedia Storytelling Initiative

Daniel J. Weitzner, MIT – Director, MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative

Patricia Williams – Director of Northeastern University’s Law, Technology and Ethics Initiatives

Ethan Zuckerman  Director, Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure, UMass Amherst