How do you think about your personal data?

AndertoonsOne day I will once more use this blog for something other than recruiting for participants, but today is not that day my friend. Today is not that day.

I need as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible to answer some questions about how they consider different types of personal data. We want to know which types of data people are willing to share with websites, and which factors are important to that decision.


The questionnaire should take at most 30 minutes, and at the end you will be entered into a draw for £50 worth of vouchers. Also, please once you have completed it, share with your friends, family, neighbours, enemies, pets, hairdressers, bus drivers, school teachers, and that weird guy on the corner. You know the one.

Many, many thanks.


Currently Recruiting!


As part of the research project that I have been working on for the past two years, we created a series of tools to help raise awareness of how the online world works, including how your personal data may be used, your online rights, and factors that may contribute to unfairness or bias online. We do not want this toolkit to go the way of so many research outputs and disappear into the ether after a brief foray into academic conferences, so we are doing as much as we can to get it out there into the real world. I am involved in running workshops with all sorts of people using various aspects of this toolkit, especially a set of cards we have branded as Awareness Cards. As part of this we were lucky enough to win an Impact Acceleration grant to test out ways of using the cards with different age groups. Our sessions with 13-17 year olds and 18-29 year olds have been hugely successful, great fun, and really useful and encouraging to us as researchers.

We are now recruiting for 2 more workshops, this time with 30-50 year olds, which are taking place in the new year. If you are able to get to the centre of Nottingham, and are interested, keep reading! (Workshops for over 65s will also be taking place in the New Year, watch all the UnBias spaces!)


Do you want to know more about issues of online fairness?
Would you like to learn more and share your views?

We are seeking people aged 30-50 years to give feedback on tools that have been created to understand issues of online fairness.

You are invited to take part in two workshops to help us to test a new set of tools for understanding these issues, on

Saturday 26th January at 10.30am
Saturday 9th February at 10.30am

at Broadway Cinema, Nottingham, NG1 3AL.

Workshops will last around 2 hours and you will need to attend both workshops.

We will ask you to:

  • Give feedback on a deck of cards that have been designed to explore issues of online fairness and how they should be addressed;
  • Try out some exercises using the cards;
  • Help to design other ways that your age group could use the cards.

No prior knowledge is required.

You will be thanked for your time with a £20 high street voucher after each workshop (as well as a set of cards for you to keep).

For more information, and to sign up for the workshops, please email Dr Helen Creswick. Booking is essential.


‘Catch and Connect’ on Nottingham Buses


Unfortunately we won’t be working with Space Buses.

Another blog for one of our projects in Horizon, this time not written by me.

It’s Monday morning and I’ve just caught the 8.52am bus into the city, which I do every day for work. I show my travel card to the usual driver who nods, we don’t speak and I make my way to my usual seat, third row back, facing forward, on the left. I acknowledge one or two of the many faces I see every day, but we don’t speak. Familiar strangers.

Read the rest here.

(Also, you should listen to this.)

How do people think about their personal data?

Odd-one-out style tasks like Sesame Street’s famous game can help us to work out how people think about their personal data.

I wrote a blog post about one of my new projects at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute.

When people interact with an online service, they form theories about how it is working. As part of the services campaign in Horizon, we are investigating the ways in which people commonly understand the use of personal data in products and services that are mediated by algorithms. We are doing this by examining the mental models people form about how different types of data are used within systems

You can read the rest of it here.

Regulating the Digital Economy: Issues and Policy Responses


On Thursday (29th June) I attended a session at the University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) which looked to discuss various issues surrounding regulating the digital economy. They will be releasing a series of publications through Westminster University Press which coincide with the themes discussed, which I will look out for. Some of the speakers were particularly relevant to my interests so I will speak a bit more about two of them here. Following the panel the interesting discussions continued into the drinks reception, and I even remembered to bring my cards so I could give out contact details (this may be the first time this has happened).

Paul Morton from the Office of Tax Simplification spoke to us about issues with taxing the digital economy, including the important question of *where* the digital economy is located. It’s an ongoing and complex problem for people regulating the digital world. For example, where do you tax a customer who usually works in Italy, but is on secondment to Italy, and is on holiday in Hawaii when he downloads the data from the content provider? And likewise, where is the content producer? Different groups across the world work together online to produce content and products of all kind, so where do you allocate tax? Another interesting point was that pretty much every company is now in the digital economy in some way, even if just in the sense of using social media to advertise or having a website. Morton also gave us an interesting and quick history of taxation, focussing on the move from a permanent base for taxation to this complex picture. He ended with three more interesting questions:

  • How do you tax information gathering?
  • If a company sells services in a location where it has no people working, should it pay tax?
  • If a company uses a countries infrastructure to provide its’ service, for example the internet, education, etc, should it pay tax?

Personally, I find the issue of taxing the online and digital world very interesting, having worked with individual creators who essentially form a one-person business. These people do not have the same infrastructural support as larger businesses, particularly the larger online behemoths like Amazon and Google, who can afford people to work to understand and exploit the tax systems. In particular I was interested to talk about VAT-MOSS but we did not have time so I hope we will be able to do so in future.

Mercedes Bunz from CAMRI discussed algorithms, AI, and Robotic automation, which was interesting with my other hat on of working with UnBias. There have been more internet connected things than humans since 2008, which is a scary fact when online systems ‘enter the sphere of meaning and start making decisions’. The advent of machine learning has completely changed how algorithms work, by automating their creation through deep learning. This means we don’t know what rules are being learnt and used to make decisions, whereas in the past computer scientists had to manually input specific rules. Introducing human assistance into the system does allow for some adjustment, and as we know from working with young people it could increase levels of trust.

Other speakers included:

  • Pieter Verdegem from CAMRI who discussed internet cooperative and platform capitalism, looking at what happens as platforms replace firms.
  • Will Hayter from the Competition and Markets Authority who not only reminded me of my time with the Centre for Competition Policy at UEA but also pointed out that a lot of the problems of regulating the online world already exist offline, and I think this is an important thing to remember.
  • Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group who spoke about how the digital world necessarily creates monopoly (if a service is being provided well, why bother getting someone else to do it?), and how digital monopolies are useful for governments in giving them someone to blame (if you blame a single company, you get instant results by bullying that company, and also take the focus away from the government).

It’s certainly given me plenty to think about!

Launch of the CREATe Copyright and Innovation Network

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Stunning views from the Digital Catapult

On May 26th I headed down to the Digital Catapult in London for an event to celebrate the launch of the CREATe Copyright and Innovation Network, which brought together findings from the CREATe research programme over the past four+ years. It was an excellent day with some interesting insights.

The day began with a keynote from Professor Paul Belleflamme, from Aix-Marseille Université, discussing his research into the economics of digital goods. He has also previously published on crowdfunding so I was interested to hear him speak. It was a great talk, and I recommend reading the paper here, around streaming of digital and informational goods. There followed a response from Professor Morten Hviid from UEA, who discussed two recent working papers surrounding digitisation of the publishing and music industries. I did my PhD Internship with Professor Hviid at UEA focussing on the crowdfunding of videogames and we’ve had many interesting discussions about the disruptive influence of digitisation and the Internet on creative industries of all kinds, including bypassing and changing the roles of intermediaries.

The second main talk was a report by Dr Nicola Searle from Goldsmiths on the range of business model research that has taken place as part of CREATe, presenting a meta-analysis of the types of business models used by different creative industries. It was very interesting to see the the product business models still dominate, despite all the discussion of the way technology has changed the business landscape in recent years. Responses to these findings came from Dr Xiaobai Shen from the University of Edinburgh, who focussed on business models in the Chinese music business, and Dr David Price from IFPI  (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), who presented on the changes in revenue sources for the music industry, particularly the massive increase in streaming. The panel was finished by Professor Charles Baden-Fuller from City University briefly bringing all the presentations together.

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Dr David Price discusses changes in music industry revenue

After lunch, Dr Joost Poort, an economist from the University of Amsterdam, presented a project about economic rights and how they change as technology advances. Responses were provided by Dr Sabine Jacques from UEA and Erin Simon from Google, both of whom gave interesting perspectives as lawyers, and triggered a fairly lively question session with the audience. Unfortunately I had to leave before the final panel but I’m sure it was an excellent discussion to end the day. As someone who is neither a lawyer or an economist, some of what was covered during the day was slightly out of my comfort zone but there was still plenty for me to take away and consider. Additionally, as my work is predominantly with small individual creators who do not work within an established industry framework such as music or publishing, it was interesting to hear the perspective of those who do. Some issues are the same no matter what part of the creative industries you are in, but others are very different and it’s not surprising to me that many small creators do not feel they are represented in the copyright discourse. I’m pleased that the second phase of CREATe will continue to identify and address challenges in regulating the creative industries to the benefit of both creators and consumers.



CREATe Early Career Research Camp, May 2017


On the 4th and 5th of May 2017 I joined a group of other PhD students and Early Career Researchers for a day and a half of networking, discussion of interdisciplinary working, and research proposals at the CREATe Early Career Research Camp. The participants were a mixture of scholars from law, policy, economics, GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), creative industries, cultural studies, computer science, and social science (and one vaguely lapsed psychologist). It was held at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow which is a great space for all sorts of meetings and collaborations.

After lunch on the first day, and an introduction to the two days, we rearranged the room into two rows and proceeded to ‘speed network’ with the rest of the participants. We had three minutes to introduce ourselves and our research interests, and discuss ways in which we could work together; this was the overall aim of the event – to find a group of around 5 people and come up with an 8-minute proposal for a collaboration. The winning proposal would win £1000 to carry out their ideas. From the networking and various chats throughout the day, I ended up in a group of 5 of us, all from different areas, but all interested in juxtapositions between the motivations of both creators and consumers.

Following the speed networking, the first panel session looked at ‘making interdisciplinary research work’. Each panelist took a turn to describe their own experiences with interdisciplinary research over their long and varied careers. It was nice to hear a lot said that very much coincides with my own limited experiences; the focus of many of the speakers on the importance of curiosity was also great to hear as I certainly don’t lack that. One of my main ‘problems’ over the years has been wanting to learn ALL THE THINGS. That’s probably why I’ve always been naturally drawn to working in different disciplines. The other major point that struck me was the discussion of language – how the same word can mean completely different things to different disciplines, or how commonplace words in one field may leave someone in another field completely stumped. It reminded me of a lot of my time in both Horizon and my internship at UEA and it’s a really important skill to learn, to be able to talk to people from varied fields.

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Chris Buccafusco speaks about Innovation and Intellectual Property

The other session on the first day was a presentation by Chris Buccafusco from Cardoza Law School about studying the creative process. I loved this session as it involved applying psychological experimentation and behavioural economics to studying the creativity. This included looking at innovation, IP, payment motivations, and a real live experiment (that worked)! The day ended with a meal at a brewery, the Drygate Brewing Company. It’s always good to catch up with people I have known through CREATe for the last 4 and a half years.

The second day began with a morning of panels: How to be an effective networker; Combining research techniques effectively; and Academics and the policy process. Once again it was great to hear from experienced academics and take away useful tidbits for my future career, research, and life. As much as I hate forced networking, it is an important skill, as is the combination of methods from different disciplines to mutual benefit, so I found the morning useful to my thought processes.

After this, all the proposal teams went away to discuss ideas and to come up with our 8 minute presentations. We enjoyed this part so much that we plan to keep in touch and advance our idea further. I think we came up with a really interesting idea with important connotations, and we managed to incorporate all of our different skills and viewpoints. The pitches took place at 3pm and were for the most part highly entertaining. The ultimate winner was definitely worthy, having come up with a new area of online creativity to study. I look forward to seeing what they do with their prize.

By the end of the event I was completely exhausted (having also been to Oxford, Vienna, the Yorkshire Dales, and Winchester in the previous three weeks for various reasons and fun times) but it was definitely worthwhile. The trains back to Nottingham were an absolute nightmare, with the most uncomfortable, jolty, bruise-inducing train I have ever been on. Not a great end to three brilliant weeks, and the insane amount of sleep I got that night and the next day was most welcome.