Independent Tech Researchers’ SummitJune 2024

61 small thumbnail pictures of participants smiling to camera at the Summit

Back in June we hosted our first Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit, designed as a collaborative, dynamic space for deepening our connections, sharing knowledge, and collectively building essential network infrastructure to support people who do independent tech research.

Over those 2 days, we anchored our conversations around Spaces, which helped us map our policy positions, envision strategic interventions and build our individual and collective capacity and confidence to influence decisions about how technology is governed.

The Summit provided time and space for independent researchers to raise up everyday issues they face in their work, and fostered deeper connections and enthusiasm between CITR members for developing collective support and strategies for improving the field.

Three distinct needs emerged from our time together:

  1. We need networked activism
  2. We need interdisciplinary conveners
  3. We need to increase our public presence with decision-makers

The CITR team are now developing processes to facilitate deeper collaboration between community members on the key projects and distinct needs. You can read more about these themes and the Summit here.

Agenda

15:00(UTC) Opening Plenary

The Summit will be called to order with words of welcome and check-ins, along with overviews of the agenda, participation guidelines and meeting logistics.

15:20(UTC) Interactive Independent Researcher Spotlights

The Summit program will kick off with interactive exhibits on a broad range of research projects and initiatives. Work featured from across the CITR community will include:

  • CrowdTangle, the DSA, and the current state of researcher access to data
  • The state of independent research on AI bias and deep fakes
  • Building safer online spaces for journalists and human rights defenders
  • Litigation risks and SLAPP suits against independent technology researchers
  • AI and the future of journalism
  • Research and evidence-based policy solutions to advance universal equitable broadband access, adoption, and application
  • Storytelling and media advocacy for tech research
  • Fediverse governance successes & gaps
  • Building global digital rights research networks
  • Bridging the gap between theory & practise around prosocial design for public discourse
  • Challenges to undertaking critical disinformation research in a year of global elections
  • Exploring the Interrelationship Between Digital Technology, Mental Health, and Research
  • Unpacking the current state of misinformation research

16:45(UTC) Break

All break times are approximate.

17:15(UTC) Strategic Working Sessions – Round I

These collaborative and interactive sessions will invite community members to explore and share knowledge on topics and objectives identified from pre-event participant input. Session facilitators will briefly introduce the objective of each session, and community members may then elect to join the session of their choice. 

Working sessions designed to address a range of efforts, opportunities and challenges facing the independent technology research community include:

  • How and why researchers should embrace strategic communications to impact policy
  • Collectively imagining better futures and conditions for independent technology researchers
  • Supporting independent researchers outside of academia who face harassment and attacks
  • Examining the independent technology research ecosystem in Africa
  • Unpacking attacks on researchers who study disinformation, hate speech and online harassment
  • What to consider when embarking on collaborative research with communities and minoritized internet users
  • Auditing the state of researcher data access under the DSA
  • The world of platform research outside of official tools
  • Applying interdisciplinary approaches: how independent tech researchers can benefit from our broader network
  • What do we mean when we say ‘public-interest’ research?
  • Ensuring ethical research in the post-API age

18:40(UTC) Closing Plenary

The closing session will invite community members to weigh in on what has been most useful during the course of Day 1, and refine their goals and priorities for the agenda of Day 2.

19:00(UTC) Adjourn

15:00(UTC) Opening Plenary

The day will start with a summary of Day 1 outcomes and a Day 2 Agenda Overview. 

15:15(UTC) Peer-to-peer Knowledge Share

Community members will be encouraged to share or to request any skill they consider relevant to the meeting scope. The session will be structured so as to minimize group sizes and maximize 1-on-1 sharing opportunities.

The range of knowledge and skills on offer will include (but not be limited to):

  • Embarking on and navigating collaborative research projects with tech companies
  • Dealing with lawsuits and other forms of legal harassment from research subjects
  • Developing alternative technical infrastructure to support independent tech research
  • Co-creating research and investigations with grassroots communities
  • Leveraging transparency regulations like the DSA to obtain platform data 
  • Finding your voice as an advocate without losing your voice as a researcher
  • How-to study [Facebook/Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/Snapchat/Google/ChatGPT/Bing]
  • Avenues for researchers and public-interest litigators to collaborate
  • Understanding the state of AI regulation, and where independent researchers fit in
  • Exploring unconventional modes of communicating research
  • Leveraging strategic litigation to raise the stakes of tech companies obstructing independent research

16:30(UTC) Break

All break times are approximate.

17:00(UTC) Strategic Working Sessions – Round II

Strategic working sessions continue, with topics anticipated to include:

  • Examining the rapidly shifting legal landscape for independent tech research
  • Building alternative infrastructure for accessing social media data
  • What we know & what we don’t know about what the DSA means for the research community in Europe and beyond
  • State of tech policy in the USA: what’s most important for the research community, and how can you engage?
  • How academic researchers, civil society researchers, and policy researchers/activists can better collaborate
  • Election research, monitoring and reporting in 2024: let’s team-up, streamline, and supercharge our impact
  • Building a policy framework for fostering and supporting independent AI research
  • Refining and expanding the ‘mutual aid’ model of CITR
  • Infrastructure and Resourcing

At the end of Day 1, community members will have the ability to propose or request additional sessions for this Day 2 time slot.

18:30(UTC) Closing Plenary

The group will summarize take-aways from the Summit, share appreciations, affirm next steps and bring the meeting to a close.

19:00(UTC) Adjourn

We are delighted to be working with Allen Gunn (Gunner) of Aspiration as our Lead Summit Facilitator. Gunner brings his participatory methodology and collaborative spirit to the planning with our Host committee in preparation for the Summit.

Our Host Committee, selected from among our membership, plays a crucial role in ensuring the Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit is a collaborative and knowledge-generating experience that reflects the needs and values of our diverse community. Our committee for 2024 Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit is comprised of:

Josephine Lukito

Josephine Lukito

Maia Woluchem - Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit

Maia Woluchem

Chico Camargo

Priyanjana Bengani - Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit

Priyanjana Bengani

Lavanya Rajesh Kumar

Lavanya Rajesh Kumar

Allen Gunn

Allen Gunn

Membership in the Coalition is open to academics, journalists, civil society researchers, community scientists and other researchers who engage in or support independent research focused on the impact of technology on society. We welcome, and are committed to supporting research by, individuals as diverse as the societies we share.

To join the Coalition, please go here.