G03
Technologies that count: big data and social order

Convenors:
Norma Möllers (Queen's University)
Anne K. Krueger (Humboldt University Berlin)
Stream:
Measurement, commensuration, markets and values
Location:
Bowland North Seminar Room 10
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel invites research which investigates how systems of data practices not only reproduce social order but actively shape it. We specifically look for research which looks into the mechanisms of data production, the political economy of data practices, and the consequences for people's lives.

Long abstract:

Large-scale data practices and technologies and their consequences are a pressing area for research, particularly at a moment when not only scholarship across the social sciences and humanities but also the media are buzzing about the consequences of "big data." New forms of data collection and analysis have massively proliferated in the major institutions of social life encompassing markets, politics, public administration, policing, the legal system, citizens' everyday lives, and even social science research itself. Everywhere instances of human (and non-human) behavior are continuously more and more collected at a large scale, translated into countable entities, categorized and analyzed for the purposes of sorting, valuing, pricing, ranking, evaluating, and governing people and things. Research has only very recently begun to investigate how these systems of data practices interlock across different social institutions, and - more than merely reproducing social order - actively shape it. Because these practices and technologies thus affect people on an unprecedented scale, it is important to gain empirically grounded insights into how they affect social order and everyday practices and experiences. This panel seeks to put research into conversation which looks into (1) the mechanisms of data production: what is collected, according to which logics it is ordered, and what categories of people and things are produced in the process (2) the political economy of these practices, that is, who collects, owns and sells these large-scale data, and finally (3) to what ends and with what consequences for people's lives these data are used.