Technology & Human Rights Fellowships for CGHR Team

CGHR Co-Directors, Dr Ella McPherson and Dr Sharath Srinivasan, and CGHR Postdoctoral Scholar, Dr Sebastián Lehuedé, have been selected as 2022-23 Technology & Human Rights Fellows at the Carr Center, Harvard University, to jointly undertake a project, ‘Provocations for Human Rights Practitioners: Technology, Power and Voice‘ between September 2022 and June 2023. Below, they introduce the background and aims of this exciting project:

Our lives are interwoven with fast-changing digital technologies. We must keep abreast of the dangers and dilemmas technology pose for human rights and humanity. Yet rights practitioners and civic activists also must work with digital technology every day. Communication technologies are increasingly key to human rights fact-finding and advocacy, and civic activists rely heavily on digitally-mediated public spheres. Big tech, however, has a woeful reputation with respect to making space for human rights in the design and implementation of their products.

Our project addresses a growing imbalance of power between civil society and the corporate technology sector. We will develop six provocations for practitioners at the intersection of human rights and technology. These provocations are designed to unsettle the increasing taken-for-grantedness of orthodox actors, norms and practices at this rapidly-developing intersection, one that often favours the ways of technology companies at the expense of civil society organisations. In so doing, these provocations create opportunities for reflection and equal collaboration in the co-construction of technologies and knowledge among human rights practitioners, civic activists and technologists.

Ultimately, we hope to make more space in the digital public sphere for voices from the grassroots to speak and be heard on their own terms. During the Fellowship, we will develop these provocations as both practitioner-oriented tools and an academic paper.

These provocations arise out of the decade of work at the Centre of Governance and Human Rights on issues of digital media, voice and power as well as on human rights in the digital age. They also draw on lessons learned from the three academic start-ups we founded addressing technology, democracy and human rights (The Whistle, Africa’s Voices, Katikati) – work that is emblematic of the praxis research approach we value at our Centre and hope to develop while Carr Center Technology & Human Rights Fellows at Harvard.