From data politics to the contentious politics of data

Beraldo, D., & Milan, S. (2019)

From data politics to the contentious politics of data

Davide Beraldo, Stefania Milan

The article can be read here.

Abstract

This article approaches the paradigm shift of datafication from the perspective of civil society. Looking at how individuals and groups engage with datafication, it complements the notion of “data politics” by exploring what we call the “contentious politics of data”. By contentious politics of data we indicate the bottom-up, transformative initiatives interfering with and/or hijacking dominant processes of datafication, contesting existing power relations or re-appropriating data practices and infrastructure for purposes distinct from the intended. Said contentious politics of data is articulated in an array of practices of data activism taking a critical stance towards datafication. In data activism, data as mediators take a central role, both as part of an action repertoire or as objects of struggle in their own right. Leveraging social movement studies and science and technology studies, this theoretical essay argues that data activism can be mapped along two analytical dimensions: “data as stakes” (as issues and/or objects of political struggle in their own right) vs. “data as repertoires” (or modular tools for political struggle), and “individual practice vs. collective action”. Mapping action repertoires and tactics along these axes allows us to chart the potential emergence of a political (contentious) data subject at the intersection of these two dimensions. This furthers our understanding of people’s engagement with data in relation to other forms of activism and existing work in social movement studies. It also helps us interpreting potential trajectories of contemporary social movements, as they increasingly interface with data, devices and platforms.

Cite as

Beraldo, D., & Milan, S. (2019). From data politics to the contentious politics of data, Big Data & Society, pp. 1-19, DOI: 10.1177/2053951719885967.

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