'It's time to ensure our digital human rights’

Inaugural lecture Ben Wagner on May 15

Ben Wagner Lector InHolland VCornel(c) 2021 2

"Digital rights are also human rights. Yet they are constantly being violated. It is time to ensure our digital human rights." During his inaugural lecture on Monday, May 15, in Amsterdam, Ben Wagner, Professor of Media, Technology & Society at Inholland University of Applied Sciences, will address challenging issues surrounding digital human rights. In doing so, he invites a special panel to clarify what digital rights are about, showing how many different areas are touched by digital rights and how big the effects can be. 

Ben Wagner's inaugural lecture (English spoken) has been recorded. Watch the recording on the page of Media, Technology & Society.

As digital infrastructures become increasingly complex, Ben Wagner says it is imperative that we focus on more sustainable models that embed digital rights at the core of digital infrastructures. In his inaugural lecture, Ben outlines the problem and then addresses these three core areas: 

  • the digital infrastructure of museums and cultural heritage;
  • challenges of online platforms for democracy and elections; 
  • the infrastructure of societies in which people are constantly being watched, so-called surveillance societies. 

He proposes paths beyond fixing broken systems. Instead, these paths run toward systemic change for digital infrastructures. Building more sustainable media ecosystems, he says, is a tremendous opportunity that can unlock enormous social and economic power. "At the same time, it provides hope that one day we can stand on firm ground again, without the risk of it sinking beneath us." 

Broad view of the impact of digital rights with specialized panel 
"Usually when we talk to each other about digital rights, it's about a very narrow set of issues: is my phone safe? How do I adjust my settings to improve my privacy? Or: why are my posts deleted from Facebook?" explained Ben, who wants his lecture to talk about the impact of the topic much more broadly. Hence, he has also invited two specialists to discuss his issues in interaction with the audience: European Parliament member Sophie in ’t Veld (D66) and Adriana Muñoz, curator at The National Museums of World Culture in Sweden. Their conversation will be moderated by journalist, podcaster and author Tracy Metz

"Because we live in hybrid digital and physical spaces, Adriana and Sophie's work is really not about technology at all, but about democracy, history and justice," Ben explains the choice of these guests. "Regarding the perspective of digital rights, they can provide valuable insights that go beyond oversimplifications that center on phone security or Facebook use." 


More information about the specialists:


About Sophie in 't Veld 
Sophie in ’t Veld sits on behalf of D66 in the European Parliament. In these times of 'digital democracy' and political opposition in Europe, she is working hard to safeguard privacy between the tech giants and nosy governments. On Sophie's initiative, privacy violations are regularly challenged. Both in the European Parliament, and at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. She is also PEGA rapporteur (PEGA: The European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry into the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware). 

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About Adriana Muñoz 
Focusing on the digital infrastructure of museums and cultural heritage, Adriana Muñoz joins us. She is a curator at the National Museums of World Culture (Varldskulturmuseerna) and works, among other things, on the project "Digital Repatriation of Cultural Heritage in the Global South. The research project focuses on the decolonization of a Swedish database for museum collections.  


About Tracy Metz 
Journalist, podcast maker and author Tracy Metz is a moderator. She writes for NRC Handelsblad and De Architect and makes the podcast 'Wetness. Uplifting stories about our water'. She is also director of the John Adams Institute, the independent center for American culture in the Netherlands. Her contribution to the public debate on city and landscape was awarded the Grand Maaskant Prize. 


Recording of Ben's inaugural lecture

The inaugural lecture "The ground beneath our feet: embedding digital rights in media ecosystems and technology infrastructure" by Ben Wagner, Professor of Media, Technology & Society, took place on Monday, May 15. Watch the recording on the page of Media, Technology & Society.