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P043


Witnessing disasters, crises and wars in the age of datafication 
Convenors:
Migle Bareikyte (European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder))
Mykola Makhortykh
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Format :
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Datafication transforms how crises and wars are witnessed and researched. Scrutinising the relationship between witnessing, digital surveillance, and platform economy, the panel explores how technology can contribute to empathic responses and engaged research but also discrimination and alienation.

Long Abstract:

Digitalisation has transformed how catastrophic events and crises, including wars, pandemics, and natural disasters are witnessed and researched. Digital platforms and messengers enable new possibilities for documenting, communicating, and investigating collective suffering via the usage of e.g. Telegram, Instagram, TikTok, or other sources of publicly accessible data. These transformations of witnessing and knowledge production on digital platforms shift the boundaries between immediate eyewitnesses of the catastrophes and the global audiences, also creating new political and ethical challenges for the datafied media ecosystems.

For many years, STS has contributed to the reflexive approaches to research by studying situated practices and infrastructures, including in digital environments (e.g. Leigh Star, 1999; Hepp, 2019; D'Ignazio and Klein, 2020). This panel is interested in the production of platformised and datafied experience-based representations and knowledge about catastrophes, crises and wars in different parts of the world, and asks how they can be critically examined and engaged with from an STS perspective. Specifically, it focuses on how digital infrastructures shape everyday experiences, practices and reflexive investigations of digital witnessing in times of digitalised datafication. It scrutinises the complex relationship between witnessing, digital surveillance and the ways in which datafication can contribute to empathic responses, engaged research but also discrimination and alienation, in particular in the case of suffering of marginalised groups. The panel also discusses the implications of the growing autonomy of the elements of the datafied media systems (e.g. non-generative and generative AI systems) for witnessing and how these can enable new inequalities by silencing discriminated communities and promoting canonic representation of suffering.

To achieve these aims, the panel invites submissions on witnessing and its research practices with regards to datafication, focusing on the wide range of crises and wars: from the COVID pandemic to Russia’s war against Ukraine to the 2023 Morocco earthquake and beyond.