Nexa Center Annual Report 2018

Presented in 2018 during the Board of Trustees meeting of the Nexa Center


In the last year, Nexa Center for Internet & Society worked for the Italian public institutions at the highest levels, as it had been asked by Agid (Agency for Digital Italy, the technical agency of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers) and AgCom (Agency for Communication) to give advice on two topics: the adoption of Artificial Intelligence technologies in the public sector and the defense of pluralism and correct information on the Internet. Regarding the first issue, prof. Juan Carlos De Martin was part of a task force of experts on AI created by Agid, whose reflections constituted the main contents of Italy’s White Paper on “Artificial Intelligence at the service of citizens”. Antonio Santangelo wrote the text, in collaboration with Agid’s personnel. About pluralism and correct information on the Internet, in turn, Nexa Center was involved in an institutional table created by AgCom, on the basis of the expertise it had demonstrated in “Persuasori social” (Social persuaders), a research conducted by Nexa fellow Fabio Chiusi and Antonio Santangelo, together with Centro della Riforma dello Stato (CRS) and Fondazione P&R, on the influence of digital platforms such as Facebook or Google in the electoral political campaigns. The work of this institutional table is not over. The aim of the project is to support the main stakeholders in the field of digital communication and information to adopt a self-regulation strategy that can limit the diffusion of fake news and misinformation.

Artificial Intelligence was one of the main research topics of Nexa Center this year. Our IX Annual Conference, organized in collaboration with National Laboratory Cini on Informatics and Society, was on “Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence”. Moreover, the WIPO Master (LL.M) in Intellectual Property Law at the ILO International Training Center in Turin, organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization and by a group of scholars of the University of Turin headed by prof. Marco Ricolfi, focused on the nexus between data, Artificial Intelligence and knowledge. In the next few months, Nexa Center will have to give TIM (Telecom Italia) advice on how to deal with privacy and related legal issues, when adopting AI technologies in the field of telephonic services. On data and algorithms ethics, Nexa Center hosts the Ph.D. research of Elena Beretta, in collaboration with Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), and the post-doc research of Antonio Vetrò on potential and actual algorithmic inequalities generated in cities by AI, in collaboration with the Future Urban Legacy Lab (FULL) of Politecnico of Turin. The issue of data and algorithmic fairness, which is at the core of two big research projects that Nexa Center submitted to the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR) and to the European Commission, will become even more central in the future.

Open Science, IoT, Blockchain and Linked data technologies are the other big topics Nexa Center worked on, in connection with its participation to OpenMed, Edu-Hack, Decode and Virteu European projects, and to the Ph.D. researches of Marco Conoscenti and Giuseppe Futia. OpenMed and Edu-Hack aim at the creation, usage and dissemination of Open Educational Resources in Universities across Europe, Medium-East and North Africa. The Decode project aims at developing tools to empower individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share them for the public good, in the field of IoT. Virteu seeks to align IoT applications with ethical and social values of EU citizens. Marco Conoscenti studies the performance of protocols aiming to scale the Blockchain, which currently supports just few transactions per second and prevents bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from becoming mainstream payment systems. Giuseppe Futia works on Knowledge Graphs (KG), to improve access to open data and their usage.

Over the last year, Nexa Center engaged in the dissemination of the knowledge it produces on digital culture, through its public seminars, publications, mailing lists and conferences. Besides the usual procedures (publicity on Nexa’s website, web streaming, open access publishing, etc.), a transmedia communication project called “Parole in codice” (Coded words) started, hosted by the academic on-line review DigitCult. It consists in a “cultural journey” into a futuristic town called “Nexa City”, where academic articles, journalistic reportages, radio podcasts and interview videos verticalize the most important topics faced by Nexa Center community about IT and society. Also, in connection with the new role of prof. Juan Carlos De Martin as the Delegate of the Dean of Politecnico of Turin for Culture and Communication, Nexa Center aims at improving its capacity of creating multimedia scientific contents that can be addressed to a wide audience.

Finally, we would like to make a note on internal organization: our former Research Director Antonio Vetrò left his management duties to the Executive Director Antonio Santangelo. Having two persons that cover these roles improved the functioning of the Center. Moreover, it enriched it with some new interdisciplinary competences, as Antonio Santangelo is a semiotician who studies the effects of digital media on our culture and societies. Interdisciplinarity continues to be one of the most important characteristics of our work and we hope it will help us in better understanding the cultural and societal changes brought to our everyday lives by computer science and information technologies.

Juan Carlos De Martin and Marco Ricolfi – Faculty Directors