University student? Do our study!


How can we raise awareness among young people (and people in general) about the human rights issues that affect lives around the world?

We are currently carrying out a study which explores the efficacy of short videos made from popular films and games for doing just that.

If you are a current university student we would love for you to take part.

The study involves completing two short questionnaires, one week apart. In the first, which should take approximately 30 minutes to complete, you will watch a short series of clips from some popular films that are adapted to discuss Human Rights issues, and to answer some questions on them. You will then be emailed a link to a second online questionnaire approximately one week later, which will ask you to reflect on the videos you watched in the previous week.  The second online survey should take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

After completing both surveys, you will be given the opportunity to supply an email address that will allow you to enter into a prize draw, where you will have the chance of winning one of two £50 Amazon vouchers.  The prize draw will take place once the questionnaire has closed.

[Belated] New Paper Alert: “… They don’t really listen to people”

Towards the end of July we had another paper published from the results of the UnBias project in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, entitled “…They don’t really listen to people”: Young people’s concerns and recommendations for improving online experiences. It took the results from 14 workshops carried out with young people between 13 and 17 years of age, presenting their concerns about the online world and their recommendations for making it fairer and more transparent. Much of the work done with young people surrounding their use of the internet focuses on their interactions with other people, especially online safety and cyberbullying. We took a different approach and discussed how and why websites (especially social media, search engines, entertainment, and shopping websites) collect and use personal data to present content, the underlying algorithmic processes that dictate this content, the ethics surrounding this, and what young people would like to see happen to create the ‘ideal internet’. This paper in particular focuses on agency and (dis)empowerment, and how provisions of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) might be meaningfully enacted and enforced.

On a more personal note, this paper marks my 6th journal article published this year. I was hoping it would be out in June to get 6 for 6, but I’m pretty pleased with this! I’m spending August putting together some more papers for submission (#amwriting) but they are unlikely to be out this year. As ever, continue to watch this space.

Purpose: The voices of children and young people have been largely neglected in discussions of the extent to which the internet takes into account their needs and concerns. This paper aims to highlight young people’s lived experiences of being online.

Design/methodology/approach: Results are drawn from the UnBias project’s youth led discussions, “Youth Juries” with young people predominantly aged between 13 and 17 years.

Findings: Whilst the young people are able to use their agency online in some circumstances, many often experience feelings of disempowerment and resignation, particularly in relation to the terms and conditions and user agreements that are ubiquitous to digital technologies, social media platforms and other websites.

Practical implications: Although changes are afoot as part of the General Data Protection Regulation (herein the GDPR) to simplify the terms and conditions of online platforms (European Union, 2016), it offers little practical guidance on how it should be implemented to children. The voices and opinions of children and young people are put forward as suggestions for how the “clear communication to data subjects” required by Article 12 of the GDPR in particular should be implemented, for example, recommendations about how terms and conditions can be made more accessible.

Originality/value: Children and young people are an often overlooked demographic of online users. This paper argues for the importance of this group being involved in any changes that may affect them, by putting forward recommendations from the children and young people themselves.”

New Paper Alert: Quantifying gendered participation in OpenStreetMap

We have a new paper out in GeoJournal: Quantifying gendered participation in OpenStreetMap: responding to theories of female (under) representation in crowdsourced mapping. It is based on the work of Dr Zoe Gardner investigating the gender balance in contributions to OpenStreetMap, an online crowdsourced mapping project. Women contribute much less to the project, and when they do, they exhibit different behaviours to men, both in which categories they work and what kind of work they do. This has implications for the kind of content that gets added to maps, and how this relates to the overall interests of the wider community. This paper addresses this as well as the discourses on gender relations and motivational factors that may lead to this imbalance. This was a fun and interesting paper to work on with Zoe.

“This paper presents the results of an exploratory quantitative analysis of gendered contributions to the online mapping project OpenStreetMap (OSM), in which previous research has identified a strong male participation bias. On these grounds, theories of representation in volunteered geographic information (VGI) have argued that this kind of crowdsourced data fails to embody the geospatial interests of the wider community. The observed effects of the bias however, remain conspicuously absent from discourses of VGI and gender, which proceed with little sense of impact. This study addresses this void by analysing OSM contributions by gender and thus identifies differences in men’s and women’s mapping practices. An online survey uniquely captured the OSM IDs as well as the declared gender of 293 OSM users. Statistics relating to users’ editing and tagging behaviours openly accessible via the ‘how did you contribute to OSM’ wiki page were subsequently analysed. The results reveal that volumes of overall activity as well editing and tagging actions in OSM remain significantly dominated by men. They also indicate subtle but impactful differences in men’s and women’s preferences for modifying and creating data, as well as the tagging categories to which they contribute. Discourses of gender and ICT, gender relations in online VGI environments and competing motivational factors are implicated in these observations. As well as updating estimates of the gender participation bias in OSM, this paper aims to inform and stimulate subsequent discourses of gender and representation towards a new rationale for widening participation in VGI.”

New Paper Alert: Presentation methods for conducting youth juries

We have a new paper out today in PLOS One: A comparison of presentation methods for conducting youth juries.  A big part of our previous projects,  UnBias and CasMa (Citizen-centric approaches to Social Media analysis) was enabling young people to increase their digital literacy and awareness of issues surrounding their rights online and how their personal data is used by algorithms to affect what they see. Part of this was developing the Youth Jury methodology, an interactive workshop/focus group based around principles of deliberation. The juries which were run as part of CasMa were created in association with 5Rights Foundation, and involved co-created scenarios with actors, which the young people could then use to talk about their opinions and feelings, producing a series of recommendations for making the online world a fairer, more transparent place. Both the CasMa and UnBias resources have been published as Online Educational Resources available to all: 5Rights Youth Juries and UnBias Youth Juries. The current paper shows that using the 5Rights resources, which include video-recorded versions of the scenarios, is just as effective in promoting discussion and empowerment amongst young people as the live action versions originally used by the research team  (quite a novelty to be pleased about non-significant results!). We want as many people as possible to to be able to use these resources, so if you’re interested, check them out and take a look at the paper. It also discusses the use of vignettes in education, and the importance of digital literacy and digital rights, adding to the literature on both these topics. 

“The 5Rights Youth Juries are an educational intervention to promote digital literacy by engaging participants (i.e. jurors) in a deliberative discussion around their digital rights. The main objective of these jury-styled focus groups is to encourage children and young people to identify online concerns and solutions with a view to developing recommendations for government policy-makers and industry chiefs. The methodology included a series of dramatized scenarios that encourage jurors to deliberate about their digital rights. This paper compares two formats for these scenarios: live actors and professionally recorded and edited videos of the same actors. Results failed to show any major differences between formats indicating the cost-effectiveness of the video-recorded format and the possibility for others to run the 5Rights Youth Juries with the support of an online open educational resource.”

New Paper Alert: “It would be pretty immoral to choose a random algorithm”

We have a new paper out this week in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society: “It would be pretty immoral to choose a random algorithm”: Opening up algorithmic interpretability and transparency. It is an output from the UnBias project which ran from 2016 to 2018, as a collaboration between The Universities of Nottingham, Oxford, and Edinburgh. This paper reports on work examining how people reason about and choose which algorithms provide the most ‘fair’ results within a particular context. It is currently available through the journal’s EarlyCite process, and the open access full-text can be found here. It is due to be part of a special issue on “Creating, Changing, and Coalescing Ways of Life with Technologies” and published as Volume 17 Issue 2.

This work, combined with studies that focused on the understanding and opinions of young people with regards bias caused by online algorithms, and work with a varied group of stakeholders including industry representatives, policy makers, and educators, allowed the UnBias project to approach the issues surrounding transparency and fairness in the use of algorithms.

“The purpose of this paper is to report on empirical work conducted to open up algorithmic interpretability and transparency. In recent years, significant concerns have arisen regarding the increasing pervasiveness of algorithms and the impact of automated decision-making in our lives. Particularly problematic is the lack of transparency surrounding the development of these algorithmic systems and their use. It is often suggested that to make algorithms more fair, they should be made more transparent, but exactly how this can be achieved remains unclear. […] The study involved discussion-based experiments centred around a limited resource allocation scenario which required participants to select their most and least preferred algorithms in a particular context. In addition to collecting quantitative data about preferences, qualitative data captured participants’ expressed reasoning behind their selections. Even when provided with the same information about the scenario, participants made different algorithm preference selections and rationalised their selections differently. The study results revealed diversity in participant responses but consistency in the emphasis they placed on normative concerns and the importance of context when accounting for their selections. The issues raised by participants as important to their selections resonate closely with values that have come to the fore in current debates over algorithm prevalence. This work developed a novel empirical approach that demonstrates the value in pursuing algorithmic interpretability and transparency while also highlighting the complexities surrounding their accomplishment.”


How does trust affect your experience of the Internet?

*****The ReEnTrust project is recruiting*****


(cross-posted from the project blog)

We are running a series of 3 hour workshops to find out, and we want you to take part. If you regularly use the Internet to search for information, make bookings, or buy products, and are aged either 16 to 25 years old or 65 years old or older, we invite you to come and share your views and experiences with us, as well as your suggestions for change in relation to trust when using the Internet. The session will involve friendly discussion and interactive activities, some of which will be screen-based. Your participation will help us to explore new technological opportunities to enhance or rebuild trust in ways that are user-driven and responsible, and to examine how trust in the online world might impact well-being. Your contribution to this workshop will also provide you, researchers, regulatory bodies and society in general, a better understanding of what makes online platforms and services trustable.

The workshops will take place either in Nottingham or Oxford, on the following dates:

16-25 year olds

Over 65s

  • Thursday 16th May at 10:30am-1:30pm at The OERC Conference Room, Oxford e-Research Centre, 7 Keble Road, Oxford, OX1 3QG
  • Friday 17th May at 10:30am-1:30pm at The OERC Conference Room, Oxford e-Research Centre, 7 Keble Road, Oxford, OX1 3QG
  • Thursday 23rd May at 10:30am-1:30pm at B18+, Xu Yafen Building, Jubilee Campus, Triumph Road, Nottingham, NG8 1BB.
  • Friday 24th May at 10:30am-1:30pm at Cecil Roberts Room, Nottingham Central Library, Angel Row, Nottingham, NG1 6HP.
  • Friday 14th June at 10:30am-1:30pm at Cecil Roberts Room, Nottingham Central Library, Angel Row, Nottingham, NG1 6HP.

The sessions will also be a good opportunity to develop your team work and communication skills, and increase your confidence and critical thinking when making decisions online. You will also receive a £20 voucher as a thank you for your time.

Refreshments will be provided.

If you are interested, or would like to sign up for the workshops, please download the relevant flyer for more information, or contact the relevant person below:


New Paper Alert: Citizens’ Juries

We have a new paper out today in the journal Healthcare: Citizens’ Juries: When Older Adults Deliberate on the Benefits and Risks of Smart Health and Smart Homes. It is a a collaboration between colleagues in several departments across the University, looking at the attitudes of older adults towards technology-enabled healthcare. It is part of a special issue on Creating Age-friendly Communities: Housing and Technology which includes  four other papers covering virtual assistive technologies, robots, and other supportive technologies.

Often certain groups are left out of debates surrounding technology and this can be highly detrimental to the uptake and usefulness of products and services. Using interactive workshops is a really effective way of engaging with all sorts of different groups, to understand their real-life concerns and experiences, and to allow researchers to make recommendations that benefit the communities they are aimed at. This paper looks at the concerns of older adults in relation to technology which is supposed to help them, highlighting a mismatch between their views and the way these systems are designed.

“Background: Technology-enabled healthcare or smart health has provided a wealth of products and services to enable older people to monitor and manage their own health conditions at home, thereby maintaining independence, whilst also reducing healthcare costs. However, despite the growing ubiquity of smart health, innovations are often technically driven, and the older user does not often have input into design. The purpose of the current study was to facilitate a debate about the positive and negative perceptions and attitudes towards digital health technologies. Methods: We conducted citizens’ juries to enable a deliberative inquiry into the benefits and risks of smart health technologies and systems. Transcriptions of group discussions were interpreted from a perspective of life-worlds versus systems-worlds. Results: Twenty-three participants of diverse demographics contributed to the debate. Views of older people were felt to be frequently ignored by organisations implementing systems and technologies. Participants demonstrated diverse levels of digital literacy and a range of concerns about misuse of technology. Conclusion: Our interpretation contrasted the life-world of experiences, hopes, and fears with the systems-world of surveillance, efficiencies, and risks. This interpretation offers new perspectives on involving older people in co-design and governance of smart health and smart homes.”