Accepted paper:

A citizen data app as an emergent para-site for official statistics: imagining citizens as more than data collectors and subjects


Francisca Grommé (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Evelyn Ruppert (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

We discuss how a para-site emerged around the experimental design of a citizen data app for official statistics, potentially enabling citizens to participate as co-producers of statistics. We furthermore highlight three aspects of this para-site relevant for producing ethnographic imaginations.

Paper long abstract:

The idea to experiment with a 'citizen data app' emerged in an ethnographic project in which a team of six researchers followed the working practices of official statisticians across Europe. As national statistical institutes are taking up the challenge of adopting Big Data sources and techniques in their repertoires, we proposed that involving citizens as active co-producers of official statistics can help address issues of access, ownership, privacy, representativeness and quality that come with 'smart statistics' infrastructures based on Big Data. In an ongoing conversation between actors from official statistics, academia and technology design we developed the idea that a citizen data app could address existing gaps between citizens' actions that create data, the interpretation of that data for statistics, and citizens' identifications with the resulting statistics. We show that the situated design practices (individual conversations, joint meetings and a collaborative workshop) that constitute this para-site (Marcus 2014) have enabled varying and sometimes contingent understandings and re-imaginations of statistical practice among its participants. Among others, notions of 'citizen co-production' emerged ranging from including citizens in existing infrastructures of statistical production to parallel infrastructures that challenge core categories in official statistics. We discuss three aspects relevant to this para-site as a method that enables 'ethnographic imaginations': 1) the provocative potential of workshop materials; 2) the value of engaging with the details and struggles of designing a concept; 3) how the dynamics of a workshop can over-rule a research team.

panel C16
Data worlds? Public imagination and public experimentation with data infrastructures