What makes a good CLSI Session?

  • The purpose of CLSI is to be an interactive, participant-led workshop that leads to tangible outcomes.
  • The session description should present the problem/issue being examined, the kinds of data that will be used in the session, and description of the current state of the project or activity.
  • Objectives should be appropriately scoped for the session and be specific in the kinds of activities which will be undertaken. Ideally, these will also include a rough agenda for the session.
  • Sessions should lead to a defined outcome, and one which may continue to develop following the conclusion of the session itself.
  • Provide links to background materials and resources in your description that can help participants orient themselves to the project (e.g., papers, policy documents, datasets, code repos, etc).
  • Be inclusive of diverse backgrounds to leverage the expertise and experiences of the wide range of people who attend.
  • Read the Code of Conduct for further guidance on how to engage with each other mindfully to ensure an environment that promotes shared learning and collaboration.

What to avoid in a CLSI Session?

  • Avoid formal presentations, panels, etc. The sessions are for active participation, not passive listening.
  • Avoid overly general topics or widely scoped objectives. For example, rather than proposing a general area: "discuss network measurement methods"; instead, be specific: "Get participant feedback on new method for measuring mobile network shutdowns in Zimbabwe."

Successful Session Examples

How a session is run and what it produces is up to you. It could be aimed at eliciting feedback on early ideas (e.g., proof of concept, research designs, etc), introducing participants to established projects and how they can participate (e.g., walk through a code base and ways to contribute, introduce a research method and how it can be used in projects), or generating new project ideas (e.g., following a major line of research or project, outline the natural extension of the work and how to pursue them).

Well planned sessions can lead to long term projects that carry on after the workshop. Spontaneous development of projects have also been achieved during the event.

Below are examples of a session leading to a long term project (evaluating stalkerware) and a session that went from idea to completion during the workshop (censorship of news on the death of Liu Xiaobo on WeChat and Weibo).

Evaluating Stalkerware

In 2018, a group came together to discuss research on stalkerware. The session scoped out a clear agenda and set of objectives ahead of time, and was developed to carry on research after the workshop. The outcome of the session was a 12 month project that produced two reports on the stalkerware ecosystem and a Canadian-based legal and policy analysis of stalkerware applications. The original session proposal is below.

Facilitator: Adam Molnar
Duration: 2.5 hours

Session Description: For the past year, Deakin University and Citizen Lab researchers have been examining a select group of stalkerware applications. To date, preliminary technical analysis has been done on 2 applications, as well as analyses of 9 companies' "branding materials" and privacy policies and/or terms of service associated with their applications. Preliminary legal analyses in Canada and Australia have also been conducted.

Session Objectives: In this session, we will be: 1) eliciting feedback on the methods used to date; 2) asking participants to actively help us identify what they believe is notable in the data or research to date; 3) suggest revisions to existing methods that are being used for this project; and 4) based on interest by participants, conduct an analysis of one application that has not yet been analyzed. The session will be divided into a brief introduction to the project and its rationales, breaking into working groups to analyze different elements of the project (i.e. technical, legal, policy). We will reconvene to share insights from the breakout sessions, which will include a brief discussion about engaging external stakeholders to maximize the impact of the research.

 

Information Controls and Social Media in China

On July 13, news broke that Liu Xiaobo, China's only Nobel Peace Prize winner and its most famous political prisoner, died from complications due to liver cancer. During CLSI, the researchers decided to react to the news by collaborating on a report that tracked how two of China's most popular platforms, WeChat and Weibo, censored content related to Liu Xiaobo's death. What started as a short session focused on project updates led to a research report that was produced during the workshop. The report went from idea to data collection / analysis to publication in just three days (including media attention from The New York Times and Ming Pao). The original session proposal is below.

Facilitator: Masashi Crete-Nishihata
Duration: 2 hours

Session Description: This session brings together researchers working on understanding social media censorship in China across different platforms (e.g, chat apps, microblogs, live streaming services, etc). Research combines technical methods (reverse engineering, machine learning, natural language processing, etc.), content analysis, and statistics.

Session Objectives: The session has the following objectives: (1) update on respective projects; (2) discuss methods for measuring image filtering on WeChat; (3) identify common research questions to test across datasets; (4) identify collaborative publication opportunities

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For more information, please contact clsi at citizenlab.ca