E07
After data activism: reactions to civil society's engagement with data

Convenors:
Guillén Torres (University of Amsterdam)
Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam)
Chair:
Katja Mayer (Technical University of Munich)
Format:
Location:
Elizabeth Livingston Lecture Theatre (Bowland North)
Start time:
28 July, 2018 at 9:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

This panel focuses on data practices that hinder rather than foster civil society's political engagement. We invite you to discuss how data governance, data science and social technologies are co-producing asymmetries of power.

Long abstract:

By foregrounding the constitutive power of information to shape social reality (Braman, 2006), recent approaches to datafication have highlighted data's active role in configuring new ways of engaging politically with -while dissolving the barriers between- public policy, economy, science, nature and culture (Milan & van der Velden, 2016). Thus, the term data activism has been used to study practices in which data plays a crucial role in shaping civil society's agenda, in particular when taking action against governmental or corporate practices of injustice or misinformation. Today, various actors embrace the "data as new oil" metaphor and we even witness multiple forms of "open-washing" of politics and economies (e.g. transparency). Other actors however, have lately shown reluctance to support civic engagement with data, implementing strategies of information control at different scales: from the enactment of government-wide policies that make difficult access to data, to recurrent denials of information requests, passing by the wilful production of the opaqueness of Automated Decision Making or scoring systems. This panel focuses on how certain actors are taking advantage of information's capacity to shape social reality, with a special focus on data practices that resist rather than foster citizens' political engagement. We invite you to discuss how mechanisms of information control produce and sustain asymmetries of power, often in complicity with data science and social technologies. We further welcome contributions focused on experiences with data activism through the mobilisation of open data and public sector information, or dealing with the political aftermath of data-driven projects.