Today is the start of the second phase of the UCIAD project, also known (not very excitingly) as UCIAD-II. This extension of the project will run until the end of June 2012, and will mostly involve me, as director and manager, and Keerthi Thomas, as our privacy/technology expert.
Why extending UCIAD?
Well, the answer to that would appear quite obvious to a number of people. Not carrying on the work and pushing it further would have actually been more surprising. Indeed, UCIAD investigated the challenges related to integrating traces of activities on an organisation’s websites, and presenting them in a user-centric way. It showed how such an approach creates a new set of technical issues, and how semantic technologies (including linked data and ontologies for data integration and clustering) can be used to tackle these issues.
Our goal here is to validate this initial insight, establish the scenarios in which the user-centric analysis of activity data will be employed in the future and devise recommendations for the types of policy that will be needed in relation to these scenarios. In other terms, now that we understand the technology, we need to understand the usage, and the implications. This is quite exciting considering that, even given the current trend in user-centric/consumer data, these aspects have not been studied before, while they will clearly become crucial in the next couple of years (if not months).
So, what are we going to do?
Generally, UCIAD II is looking at two complementary aspects of the general idea of user-centric activity data (i.e., giving back to users the data about their own activity):
- What are the concrete scenarios in which users can benefit from having access to, understanding of and control over their own activity data?
- What are the changes in terms of organisations’ policies on data access, data protection, data licensing and privacy that are made necessary by such approaches.
The goal of UCIAD 2 is therefore to provide early-stage answers to these questions through a study, realised with a group of users (students and staff) of the Open University websites. In a nutshell, we will give these users early dedicated access to the evolving set of tools prototyped in UCIAD, populated with their activity data on the Open Universities websites. We will record and reflect with them on their usage of these tools and their reactions to them, in order for them to act as a ‘focus group’ to establish what the access to their own activity data could enable, and what can be judged acceptable in terms of the organisation’s policies on managing these data.
As with UCIAD, we will use this blog to report and discuss on the progress in the project. We have a lot on our plate already, starting for enrolling participants and organising the first interview campaigns. More on that will to appear soon!