First Junior Scholars Network Mini Conference On AI Infrastructures

We look back on a successful first mini-conference of the AI, Media and Democracy Junior Scholars Network. Network members from around Europe came together at the AI, Media & Lab in Amsterdam to discuss ongoing research projects with a focus on AI Infrastructures. The three-day mini-conference kicked off with an inspirational presentation on the Governance of Generative AI by Fabian Ferrari. This was followed by an engaging panel discussion on Infrastructures and Platforms featuring José van Dijk, Thomas Poell, Helle Sjøvaag, and Jean-Christophe Plantin, where questions of how to engage the public, the infrastructural power of big tech and new emerging actors such as Start-ups were discussed. 

Panel Discussion with van Dijk, Poell, Sjøvaag and Plantin
Presentation by Ferrari

On day two, the network’s junior scholars had an opportunity to present their current projects and exchange feedback and advice with each other and with the invited critical discussants; Helle Sjøvaag, Carl-Gustav Linden and Jean-Christophe Plantin. The aim was to have a space in which the participants could share works-in-progress and really focus on what they were struggling with in their work, rather than only present polished findings. The day ended with an ‘Infrastructural Walk’ inspired by Alison Powell’s methodology of ‘Data Walking’, where one group searched for surveillance infrastructures in Amsterdam, while the other explored the question of (in)accessibility in the urban space.

On the third and final day, the focus moved towards methodologies and collaboration. The day started off with a methodology panel with Fernando van der Vlist, Lisa Merete Kristensen, Theresa Seipp, Bronwyn Jones and Mathias Felipe de-Lima Santos who each presented concrete ways to study and shape AI infrastructures. Inspired by the panel discussion, the participant then engaged in a mapping of AI infrastructures and actors and their relation as a way to spark ideas of what could and should be studied and open up avenues of collaboration among the participants.

The conference is an opportunity for junior scholars to be amongst themselves and exchange their experiences, to discuss their projects’ successes, but also to share difficulties experienced along the way in the academic work. By receiving valuable guidance and feedback from both peers and established senior scholars in the field, the network facilitates an opportunity for growth, development, and community. 

The mini-conference and network is supported by the AI, Media and Democracy Lab at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Digital Democracy Centre (DDC) at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and the University of Bergen (UiB). Next year the mini-conference will be hosted by the University of Bergen, who will once again open its doors to a group of junior scholars.

Check out the short summary of the topics and methods discussed at the conference, which can serve as an inspiration for others interested in studying AI infrastructures.  

Attached is a selection of additional reading materials provided by Bronwyn Jones.