My name is Stefania and I am Professor of Critical Data Studies at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Media Studies. I am also Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, and Research Associate, Chair “Artificial Intelligence & Democracy” at the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute. I am curious about the interplay between technology and society. I am interested in the possibilities of self organization, emancipation, and autonomy that digital infrastructure opens up. A social scientist by formation, I value interdisciplinary research, and feel myself at home at the intersection of a variety of fields, including critical data studies, political sociology, and science and technology studies. My CV, including a list of publications, hides here.
what keeps me busy
I am Project Leader of Citizenship and Standard-Setting in Digital Networks, also known as IN-SIGHT (NWO Grant No MVt.19.032), and Co-Principal Investigator of the e-LADDA project (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Grant No 857897). I co-lead the Digital Europe Hub of the Amsterdam Center for European Studies (2021-2023). I am also the principal of the DATACTIVE Ideas Lab, a consultancy agency (KvK-nummer 69570132).
One of my main lines of work concerns grassroots engagement with data and data infrastructure (‘data activism’). In the recent past, I have written about, e.g., the contentious politics of data, alternative data epistemologies of data activism, data activism as the new frontier of media activism, the consequences of playing with data, and the emergence of counter-imaginaries able to reconfigure dominant algorithmic narratives.
I am also interested in the challenges of datafication and surveillance as they unfold… at the margins, which resulted in the launch, together with Emiliano Treré (Cardiff University) of the Big Data from the South Research Initiative, or Big Data Sur (Cartagena de Indias, 2017). Big Data Sur is now a network of 400+ researchers and practitioners interrogating datafication from a Southern perspective. It produced a special issue on Big Data from the South for the journal Television & New Media (2019), and a trilingual issue on Latin American Perspectives on datafication and Artificial Intelligence for the journal Palabra Clave (2021).
With the inception of the COVID-19 crisis—the first pandemic of the datafied society—I have devoted my attention to incipient techno-solutionism and the emergence of a new form of poverty, the data poor. I co-edited the blog COVID-19 from the Margins, which resulted in the open-access, multilingual volume COVID-19 from the Margins: Pandemic Invisibilities, Policies and Resistance in the Datafied Society (Institute of Network Cultures, 2021).
Now I am mostly interested in the emergence of a novel mode of governance, named governance by data infrastructure, which has regulatory data infrastructures at its core. Regulatory data infrastructure—think of thermal cameras, educational platforms, vaccination certificates—generate data aimed at monitoring the polity and/or facilitating decision-making, taking up functions that once pertained to public administrations. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has overridden public concerns over privacy risks, regulatory data infrastructure creeps further into private and public spaces—at high societal costs. A co-authored piece on the performative ‘theatre’ of vaccination certificates can be found here.
I hold a PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute (EUI) (2009). Prior to joining the EUI, I studied Communication Sciences at the University of Padova, Italy.
Before joining the University of Amsterdam, I have been Assistant Professor of Data Journalism at Tilburg University (2012-2014) where I funded and directed the Data J Lab dedicated to ‘Big Data’ analytics. I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto (2011-2012); a visiting professor at the Department of Political Science of the Central European University, in Budapest, Hungary (2011); a visiting scholar at Media@McGill, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (2010); a research fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (2009-2010) and at the Political and Social Sciences Department, European University Institute (2011); a lecturer at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland (2008-2010); a junior specialist at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine (2008), and a research associate at the Stanhope Center for Communications Policy Research, in London (2005-2006). I have worked in exciting projects like the European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship and Caught in the act of protest: Contextualizing contestation. With many of these people and organizations, I keep alive fruitful connections and collaborations. I am particularly proud of being a member of the Center on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS) at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy) and a non-resident fellow at the Center for Media, Data & Society, Central European University.
In the recent past, I served as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the DATACTIVE project (European Research Council Starting Grant No 639379, 2015-2021), and of the spin-off the Algorithms Exposed project (European Research Council Proof of Concept Grant No 825974, 2018-2020).
I am a member of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), and I was elected to the International Council of the organization in 2012, and again in 2020. I co-chaired the IAMCR Emerging Scholars Network (2008-2012) and served as co-chair of the IAMCR Communication Policy Task Force (2012-2016). I also served in the Non-Commercial User Constituency of the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (2014-2017), both in its Executive Committee and as an elected representative in Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). I was a member of the Steering Committee of /1net. I am a member of a number of other academic associations, including the International Communication Association, GIGANet, the International Studies Association, the European Sociological Association, and counting. As a consultant, I have worked for the European Commission, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, and many international NGOs.
there is life beyond academia
I am a journalist (although I rarely practice these days), and a member of the UK National Union of Journalists. I am also a lifeguard and a swimming instructor. I love sports and the outdoors, possibly in combination. I am an avid cyclist, practice boxing and yoga, and occasionally dance tango. This is why I am also… studying boxing and grassroots gyms (so much for… life beyond academia ;-).