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Doing and undoing data: anthropological approaches to uses and effects of everyday data [Network for Digital Anthropology (ENDA)] 
Kyrill Potapov (University College London)
Craig Ryder (SOAS)
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Kyrill Potapov (University College London)
Craig Ryder (SOAS)
Thursday 25 July, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

This roundtable invites discussants from across the discipline-mix who have anthropologically engaged with data and its problematisations. We are particularly interested in productive, emic, and situated understandings of data worlds and spaces from a global perspective.

Long Abstract:

Everyday life has undergone breakneck datafication, so much so, that an analogue existence without data orchestrating how we work, eat and play might now sound like science fiction. Yet, data is never as “raw” as popular parlance may suggest; nor is it as “big”. Its integrity could be viewed as arising from a mythology that is imbued with “the aura of truth, objectivity, accuracy” (Boyd, 2012). Data could also be framed as in the service of capital: an object of neocolonialism (Couldry & Meijas, 2019). What, then, does this mean for digital anthropologists, researchers charged with documenting and understanding what it means to be human in a datafied world?

In 2021, a collaborative special issue suggested that there are two ways that anthropology can engage with data (Douglas-Jones, Walford & Seaver). First, through ethnography with data-communities such as Nair’s (2021) study on how India’s biometric identification system offers potentialities of access, or Knox’s (2021) innovative unpacking of smart meters in the UK as a means of public participation. Second, there are “accidental ethnographers” who happen upon data whilst in the field, like TallBear’s (2013) research on the dialectic between Native American kinship and local obsessions with genetic databases. Yet if data suggests and mediates multiple realities, then this roundtable seeks to advance the debate by asking if there might be other ways of anthropological engagement with data. Is a different anthropology possible, that is inclusive, pluralistic, as well as in and of the world which takes data as a given?