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Imagining alternative data futures 
Sophie Wagner (University of Bern)
Lucien Schönenberg (University of Bern)
Darcy Alexandra (University of Bern)
Sanderien Verstappen (University of Vienna)
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Michaela Schäuble (University of Bern)
Karen Waltorp (University of Copenhagen)
6 College Park (6CP), 01/037
Friday 29 July, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

This panel is interested in the socio-material emergence, fluidity, and impact of biometric data infrastructures, the challenges they introduce, and creative ways for imagining futures otherwise.

Long Abstract:

In light of the all-encompassing manmade catastrophes that pose global challenges, (digital) technological innovations are often framed as the solution to our problems. In this "biometric imaginary" (Donovan 2015), quantification promises to make the unknown identifiable and the variable controllable, leading to a world which increasingly presents itself as preemptive (Avanessian 2018). The future is calculated by technologies and algorithms endowed with an aura of truth, efficiency, objectivity and inevitability (Sapignoli 2021), fostering certain narratives while others are dismissed. The tendency to respond to these technological developments with a backward-oriented lust for deceleration, believing that technology estranges us from human "nature", not only overlooks the everyday human and more-than-human co-creation of knowledge and experience, but also clouds the need to act on the immanent, hidden costs. These include the centralization of knowledge, the concentration of power into private companies, changing notions of responsibility and privacy and the creation of new patterns of exploitation, for example.

This panel asks what we might learn for the present, if we can imagine futures against the odds (Stengers 2002). We invite ethnographic accounts that address processes of knowledge decentralization (i.e. open source databases/participatory technology design), attempts to create and imagine alternative future data infrastructures and possible ways toward a new (global) solidarity, processes of undermining/circumventing/adapting existing technologies for alternative uses (wearables, algorithms, "security" devices,...), and strategies of dealing with unfulfilled promises of technologies and the vulnerabilities that unforeseeable trajectories create. We especially encourage multimodal ethnographies that involve film, photography, creative writing, and/or sensory ethnography.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -