Accepted Paper:

The influence of data practices on the relationship between civil society organisations and their audiences  


Amber Macintyre (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents an ethnography exploring the influence of data practices on a civil society organisation’s internal practices. The findings show divergent approaches to using personal data based on two initial starting points: the team and the individual’s perceived role of the audience.

Paper long abstract:

The influence of data practices, particularly those involving personal data, provides opportunities and challenges for how civil society organisations form relationships with their audiences. On one hand, the use of data can have substantial effects for listening to people, reaching new groups and mobilising audiences at the right time to create social change. On the other, embracing these data practices can lead to problematic assumptions about how to create and monitor relationships as documented in critical reviews of profiling, microtargeting and privacy.To address this tension, more empirical understanding is needed of what data practices exist and how they are approached. This paper presents the findings of an ethnography in a civil society organisation answering the following two questions:How do staff within the organisation engage with new data practices? How does the organisation's relationship with members impact their use of data?

Respectively, the findings show that firstly, the relationship to data practices differs greatly across different teams and secondly, the approach to data is caught in a familiar tension in civil society organisations between the importance of experts and the role of broader membership movements.

Panel E07
After data activism: reactions to civil society's engagement with data