Death, taxes and gases: the issuefication of data and the datafication of issues
(King's College London)
Paper short abstract:
How are digital technologies redistributing practices of making data public and making public data? This paper reflects on several cases where transnational data infrastructures become "matters of concern" around deaths, taxes and gases, leading to interventions and alternatives.
Paper long abstract:
How are digital technologies redistributing practices of making data public and making public data? How are different actors challenging, contesting and creating alternatives to official data infrastructures and regimes of datafication? How do issue activists, civic hackers and others mobilise in order to change how issues are accounted for through data? This paper looks at what can be learned from several cases where transnational data infrastructures become "matters of concern", leading to interventions and alternatives. Whilst the UN talks of "data gaps", this framing over-emphasises the representational capacities of information systems, and does not do justice to the many different ways in which data can be created in relation to different issues. In order to account for the performative capacities of data infrastructures in rendering and shaping collective life, the paper examines what can be learned from ongoing mobilisations around public data - including around deaths (e.g. police killings and deaths in migration); taxes (e.g. the economic activities and tax contributions of multinationals); and gases (e.g. carbon emissions and air pollution). It looks at the methods, devices, technologies and practices through which alternative data worlds are created, maintained and seek public recognition and legitimation. It considers how controversies around data infrastructures may inform more ambitious forms of public involvement, intervention and imagination around processes of datafication, as well as suggesting possible unintended consequences of rendering life as data.
Data worlds? Public imagination and public experimentation with data infrastructures