Accepted Papers:

Open data infrastructures: the tension between attachment, detachment and reattachment  


Antoine Courmont (Sciences Po)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper introduces an analytical framework for open data policies based on the tensions produced by the attachment, detachment and reattachment of data. It highlights that technical choices made in the implementation of a data infrastructure have strong impacts on the making of (open) data worlds

Paper long abstract:

Open data policies rest on the ideology of information liberalism which claims that information must circulate freely in order to solve various problems in the context of cybernetic theories. The information liberalism is based on the assumption that data exist, are autonomous and can easily circulate.

Based on a four-year ethnographic investigation inside the Metropolis of Lyon (France), I question this assumption following an approach of sociology of quantification. Indeed, the analysis of the open data policy in the making reveals a tension between attachment and detachment that needs to be addressed to allow a smooth circulation of data. Attached to vast socio-technical networks, data must be detached from their initial environment to circulate, before being re-attached to new users. Following data from their production to their reuse, my communication will consecutively highlight the attachment between data and local policies, the trials of detachment to make data circulate, and the data reattachment to secondary uses.

The description of each of these steps highlights the technical choices made in the implementation of an open data infrastructure that have political consequences in the making of (open) data worlds. Indeed, moving from one social world to another one, the open data obtain new characteristics that enable (or restrain) their attachments to alternative users. The case of Lyon underlines a focus on economic re-users. As a consequence, the open data infrastructure reflects these prefigured users and limits the emergence of new forms of political participation through open data.

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