Through the “looking glass” of Alibaba – “digital traces”, “social credit”, “mass surveillance” and digital governance

Shen, X. (Keynote speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Description

Abstract
Every day, we leave digital traces one way or another. Big (digital) data-driven innovations have been taking place across a wide range of internet connected things. On the one hand, people enjoy convenient digital services with the changes of everyday lives in various economic and social aspects. On the other, peoples’ antipathy toward the powers associated with data traces tracking by powerful commercial and political players over them is dawning. Thus, the governance of digital traces is now attracting the attention of the societies and the regulations of all governments across the world.
The challenges are unprecedented. The changes are so rapid, diverse and wide-spread, and the potential outcomes beyond any prediction that one can make by following previous paradigms. The views and the positions toward data traces are so polarised and the reasoning derived from different experiences of people living in different social settings with different outlooks of the world is often intractable.
This talk is to discusses the issues of “social credit” [ that I interpret as “social value”] (Douglas 1933) and “distributed governance” - one of the new norms in the “network society” (Castells 1996) by using the case in China – Alibaba’s financial Sesame credit system, which is fed with historical and live data collected constantly from cross-platform online service infrastructures. In China, this mechanism is the foundation for the operation of Alibaba’s financial mechanism supporting over 5 million small and micro-enterprises (SMicroEs). However, it is often referred here as the model of the Chinese “social credit” system for “mass surveillance” by the state, or resemble with a dystopian society illustrated in the TV series of “Black Mirror”.
However, I argue, “digital traces” and “digital tracking” can be regarded as assets and practices, amenable to design and uses by individual societies; “mass surveillance” can be applied on people or by people. The regulations are to ensure the rights and roles of the “mass users”.
Period8 Jul 20199 Jul 2019
Event titleCHINA-UK SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION COOPERATION: THE NEXT 40 YEARS: Session 4: Policy keynote panel
Event typeConference
Locationlondon, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Keywords

  • digital trace
  • financial credit
  • social credit
  • digital governance
  • China