Gender and IoT: UCL STEaPP Research and Teaching in Action
By mark.a.johnson, on 14 March 2019
For this year’s International Women’s Day, several UCL STEaPP MPA students had the opportunity to attend the seminar and training event Technology and Violence Against Women – Helping or Harming? hosted by AVA (Against Violence & Abuse).
It offered the MPA cohort the chance to learn outside the classroom, connect teaching and practice, and see first-hand how UCL STEaPP research is supporting frontline organisations active in the field of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Dr Leonie Maria Tanczer, lecturer at UCL STEaPP and lead of UCL’s “Gender and IoT” (G-IoT) research project, was accompanying the students and presented at the event. She was one of a diverse group of speakers, including representatives from the College of Policing, the charity SafeLives, and the research consultancy Think Social Tech.
“The event was eye-opening. Understanding how technology is used in VAWG cases to a human’s detriment was soul-wrenching,” says Isabella Manghi, MPA candidate in the Digital Technologies stream. “However, there was hope too, considering that this group of experts came together to discuss how to protect victims and what measures can be taken in order to ensure their safety.”
Sarah Turner, another MPA candidate of STEaPP’s Digital Technology and Policy cohort recognised the significance of involving the support sector in this particular area of work:
“Technology is becoming ever-more prevalent as a means of carrying out violence against individuals. Yet, it’s an incredibly complex and overwhelming subject to get to grips with. It’s therefore so important that those supporting victims of abuse ultimately recognise how technology may play a role in their coercion and control and to have awareness of the relatively simple steps that can be taken to improve safety”.
For Sarah it “reiterated the need for digital literacy for anyone who works to support these groups and communities”, which essentially underpins all of the research and teaching done at the Digital Policy Lab at UCL STEaPP.
Zoey Tung, a fellow MPA student, saw the necessity to translate research into practice: “I learned a lot on how technology is altering VAWG, as well as how academic research has a real-world impact for frontline workers and survivors in the field and opens up opportunities for intervention. It was a positive and supportive seminar and showed how women can feel safe and empowered through the effective and secure use of devices and systems.”
Carlotta Battisti, a MPA candidate from UCL STEaPP’s Development and Innovation stream, explains that “the seminar was really stimulating, especially because of the different professional backgrounds of the panelists. As part of the debate, the panelists discussed the main regulatory gaps in preventing and responding to all the forms of tech abuse and, more importantly, they stressed the importance of ‘speaking out’, so as to incentivise IoT manufactures to introduce safety measures to domestic abuse and raise awareness in society.”
The student’s attendance at the seminar was part of the STEaPP Digital Policy Lab’s #STEaPPLearningCurve programme, which aims to connect MPA students with the ongoing research happening at the department.