Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seminar 6 Yuwei Lin Position Statement

A pedagogy for artivism

Yuwei Lin

University for the Creative Arts

The importance of data literacy and the need for improving it through both formal educational channel and public engagement have kept being flagged up in every single past Data-Psst! Workshop I have been to. There is a real demand for action taking. This academic year 2015-16, I took advantage of the knowledge I learned from the Data-Psst! workshop and devised a curriculum teaching the concepts of ‘big data’, ‘privacy’ and ‘surveillance’ to my level 5 undergraduate students at a specialist arts and design university in the UK, the University for the Creative Arts. We not only approached the issues from the legal perspectives (learning a number of problematic laws including the Data Retention and Investigatory Power Act (DRIPA), Digital Economy Act), but also engaged in the debate in a hands-on practical manner.

In the learning of laws, the students had demonstrated a great understanding of the flaws and problems of DRIPA and Digital Economy Act. They were fascinated by the great gestures of the hackers ‘Edward Snowden’ and ‘Julian Assange’, and the campaigns that various civic NGO groups have staged, including the Open Rights Group. However, many of them still subscribed to the ‘propaganda’ statement that the government has made: ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’. This is a generation of believers of ‘the death of privacy’. Since their engagement with digital technologies is so deeply entangled in everyday life, it is difficult to ask them to keep a ‘critical distance’.

One of the assignments asked the students to make a short video expressing their idea of ‘privacy’. The interpretations of that has been varied. Here are a list of exemplary videos made by the UCA students that you can view online:


When asked to turned their ideas into an interactive piece to engage more people, quite a few designed quiz games or made a narrative choice-based game, like this one:

Other interactive projects include a ‘You’ve been framed!’ performance, and an audio-visual installation with unsettling images from the GCHQ.

Although I felt a bit disappointed that few of my undergraduate students actually became more critical of ‘privacy’ and ‘surveillance’ issues in today’s data-centric society, it motivates me to try harder next time. After all, it could only show that how difficult it is to change people’s mindset, beliefs and behaviours. It definitely has been an interesting journey.

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