Disconcerting (big) data futures through data sprints
Michael Hockenhull (IT University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the co-construction of public imaginations of the future related to technology and (big) data taking place by limited publics on a mainly discursive basis, and suggests a novel method assemblage, the data sprint, as a way to produce disconcertment about these imaginations through practice.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the co-construction of public imaginations of the future related to technology and (big) data in the scandinavian welfare state of Denmark, and discusses methods for gaining access to and studying this co-construction process. The paper provides an empirical account of such imaginations through ethnographic fieldwork of industry events aimed at both private and public sector actors. It describes how data-related futures of increased productivity, efficiency, smartness, livability and green are imagined by and for extremely limited publics, mainly consisting of corporate actors, civicl servants and administrators with token if any participation by actual diverse representation or citizenship. The fieldwork traces the co-construction of imagined futures mainly to discursive and sociomaterial presentations, omitting practice-based experience. Furthermore, the paper describes experimentation with a collaborative digital method assemblage and work practice, the data sprint, which through the course of the fieldwork came to act as both gateway to gain access to informants and as a collaborative meeting between ethnographer and informant in which disconcertment could be produced concerning the imagined futures at play through the practice of working with data and the mess involved in this process. The paper thus seeks to make two contributions: the first empirical, detailing how limited publics around data and technology-focused industry events are imagining futures in the Scandinavian welfare state. The second methodological, on how data sprints can act as ethnographic probes by providing access and provide a space for being disconcerted about imagined data futures.
The public imagination of the future