When data is capital: Datafication, accumulation, and extraction
وقتی داده سرمایه است: داده سازی، انباشت و استخراج-2019
The collection and circulation of data is now a central element of increasingly more sectors of contemporary capitalism. This article analyses data as a form of capital that is distinct from, but has its roots in, economic capital. Data collection is driven by the perpetual cycle of capital accumulation, which in turn drives capital to construct and rely upon a universe in which everything is made of data. The imperative to capture all data, from all sources, by any means possible influences many key decisions about business models, political governance, and technological development. This article argues that many common practices of data accumulation should actually be understood in terms of data extraction, wherein data is taken with little regard for consent and compensation. By understanding data as a form capital, we can better analyse the meaning, practices, and implications of datafication as a political economic regime.
Keywords: Big Data | digital capitalism | value | political economy | Marx | Bourdieu
The social imaginaries of data activism
تصورات اجتماعی فعالانه داده ها-2019
Data activism, promoting new forms of civic and political engagement, has emerged as a response to problematic aspects of datafication that include tensions between data openness and data ownership, and asymmetries in terms of data usage and distribution. In this article, we discuss MyData, a data activism initiative originating in Finland, which aims to shape a more sustainable citizen-centric data economy by means of increasing individuals’ control of their personal data. Using data gathered during long-term participant-observation in collaborative projects with data activists, we explore the internal tensions of data activism by first outlining two different social imaginaries – technological and socio-critical – within MyData, and then merging them to open practical and analytical space for engaging with the socio-technical futures currently in the making. While the technological imaginary favours data infrastructures as corrective measures, the socio-critical imaginary questions the effectiveness of technological correction. Unpacking them clarifies the kinds of political and social alternatives that different social imaginaries ascribe to the notions underlying data activism, and highlights the need to consider the social structures in play. The more far-reaching goal of our exercise is to provide practical and analytical resources for critical engagement in the context of data activism. By merging technological and socio-critical imaginaries in the work of reimagining governing structures and knowledge practices alongside infrastructural arrangements, scholars can depart from the most obvious forms of critique, influence data activism practice, and formulate data ethics and data futures.
Keywords: Datafication | social imaginary | data activism | MyData | data ethics | socio-technical futures
Conceptual frameworks for social and cultural Big Data analytics: Answering the epistemological challenge
چارچوب مفهومی برای تجزیه و تحلیل داده های بزرگ اجتماعی و فرهنگی : پاسخ به چالش معرفت شناختی-2019
This paper aims to contribute to the development of tools to support an analysis of Big Data as manifestations of social processes and human behaviour. Such a task demands both an understanding of the epistemological challenge posed by the Big Data phenomenon and a critical assessment of the offers and promises coming from the area of Big Data analytics. This paper draws upon the critical social and data scientists’ view on Big Data as an epistemological challenge that stems not only from the sheer volume of digital data but, predominantly, from the proliferation of the narrow-technological and the positivist views on data. Adoption of the social-scientific epistemological stance presupposes that digital data was conceptualised as manifestations of the social. In order to answer the epistemological challenge, social scientists need to extend the repertoire of social scientific theories and conceptual frameworks that may inform the analysis of the social in the age of Big Data. However, an ‘epistemological revolution’ discourse on Big Data may hinder the integration of the social scientific knowledge into the Big Data analytics.
Keywords: Social and cultural Big Data analytics | social science | computational science | epistemological challenge | social media
Medical research, Big Data and the need for privacy by design
تحقیقات پزشکی، داده های بزرگ و نیاز به حریم خصوصی توسط طراحی-2019
Medical research data is sensitive personal data that needs to be protected from unauthorized access and unintentional disclosure. In a research setting, sharing of (big) data within the scientific community is necessary in order to make progress and maximize scientific benefits derived from valuable and costly data. At the same time, convincingly protecting the privacy of people (patients) participating in medical research is a prerequisite for maintaining trust and willingness to share. In this commentary, we will address this issue and the pitfalls involved in the context of the PEP project1 that provides the infrastructure for the Personalized Parkinson’s Project,2 a large cohort study on Parkinson’s disease from Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), in cooperation with Verily life Sciences, an Alphabet subsidiary.
Keywords:Big Data | GDPR compliance | informed consent | medical cohort study | polymorphic encryption | privacy by design
Experiments with a data-public: Moving digital methods into critical proximity with political practice
آزمایشات با داده های عمومی: انتقال روش های دیجیتال به نزدیکی بحرانی با عمل سیاسی-2019
Making publics visible through digital traces has recently generated interest by practitioners of public engagement and scholars within the field of digital methods. This paper presents an experiment in moving such methods into critical proximity with political practice and discusses how digital visualizations of topical debates become appropriated by actors and hardwired into existing ecologies of publics and politics. Through an experiment in rendering a specific data-public visible, it shows how the interplay between diverse conceptions of the public as well as the specific platforms and data invoked, resulted in a situated affordance-space that allowed specific renderings take shape, while disadvantaging others. Furthermore, it argues that several accepted tropes in the literatures of digital methods ended up being problematic guidelines in this space. Among these is the prescription to shown heterogeneity by pushing back at established media logics.
Keywords: Digital methods | public engagement | pragmatism | controversy-mapping | critical proximity | multiplicity
Beyond mystery: Putting algorithmic accountability in context
فراتر از رمز و راز: پاسخگویی الگوریتمی در زمینه-2019
Critical algorithm scholarship has demonstrated the difficulties of attributing accountability for the actions and effects of algorithmic systems. In this commentary, we argue that we cannot stop at denouncing the lack of accountability for algorithms and their effects but must engage the broader systems and distributed agencies that algorithmic systems exist within; including standards, regulations, technologies, and social relations. To this end, we explore accountability in ‘‘the Generated Detective,’’ an algorithmically generated comic. Taking up the mantle of detectives ourselves, we investigate accountability in relation to this piece of experimental fiction. We problematize efforts to effect accountability through transparency by undertaking a simple operation: asking for permission to re-publish a set of the algorithmically selected and modified words and images which make the frames of the comic. Recounting this process, we demonstrate slippage between the ‘‘complication’’ of the algorithm and the obscurity of the legal and institutional structures in which it exists.
Keywords: Algorithms | normativity | accountability | responsibility | mystery | detective
The optical unconscious of Big Data: Datafication of vision and care for unknown futures
ناخودآگاه نوری از داده های بزرگ: به دست آوردن بینایی و مراقبت از آگاهی های ناشناخته-2019
Ever since Big Data became a mot du jour across social fields, optical metaphors such as the microscope began to surface in popular discourse to describe and qualify its epistemological impact. While the persistence of optics seems to be at odds with the datafication of vision, this article suggests that the optical metaphor offers an opportunity to reflect about the material consequences of the modes of seeing and knowing that currently shape datafied worlds. Drawing on feminist new materialism, the article investigates the optical metaphor as a material-discursive practice that actively constitutes the world, as metaphors imply modes of thinking, knowing and doing that have material enactions. Expanding visual culture theories, the notion of ‘optical unconscious’ is taken up to discuss the tensions between displacement and persistence of optics within datafied worlds, that is, how optical vision is displaced but also mobilised and repurposed by data-driven knowledge. In dialogue with feminist science and technology studies and speculative ethics, I suggest that the datafication of vision offers a chance to reconceptualize the sense of sight towards a sensorial engagement with Big Data premised on responsibility, care, and an ethics of unknowability. Within this framework, vision may be conceived differently, perhaps not only as enhancement and control, but as generator of new possibilities. Ultimately, the article proposes that the visual theories after which Big Data is being imagined matter not only for our understanding of Big Data’s epistemic potential, but also for the possibility of shaping emerging data worlds.
Keywords: Optical unconscious | datafication of vision | speculative ethics | care | feminist materialism | metaphors
Weaving seams with data: Conceptualizing City APIs as elements of infrastructures
بافتن با داده ها: اندیشه سازی رابط های برنامه های کاربردی (API) شهری به عنوان عناصر زیرساخت-2019
This article addresses the role of application programming interfaces (APIs) for integrating data sources in the context of smart cities and communities. On top of the built infrastructures in cities, application programming interfaces allow to weave new kinds of seams from static and dynamic data sources into the urban fabric. Contributing to debates about ‘‘urban informatics’’ and the governance of urban information infrastructures, this article provides a technically informed and critically grounded approach to evaluating APIs as crucial but often overlooked elements within these infrastructures. The conceptualization of what we term City APIs is informed by three perspectives: In the first part, we review established criticisms of proprietary social media APIs and their crucial function in current web architectures. In the second part, we discuss how the design process of APIs defines conventions of data exchanges that also reflect negotiations between API producers and API consumers about affordances and mental models of the underlying computer systems involved. In the third part, we present recent urban data innovation initiatives, especially CitySDK and OrganiCity, to underline the centrality of API design and governance for new kinds of civic and commercial services developed within and for cities. By bridging the fields of criticism, design, and implementation, we argue that City APIs as elements of infrastructures reveal how urban renewal processes become crucial sites of socio-political contestation between data science, technological development, urban management, and civic participation.
Keywords: Application Programming Interface (API) | infrastructure | Internet of Things (IoT) | interface design | social urban data | smart city
Logged out: Ownership, exclusion and public value in the digital data and information commons
خروج: مالکیت، محرومیت و ارزش عمومی در داده های دیجیتال و اطلاعات عمومی-2019
In recent years, critical scholarship has drawn attention to increasing power differentials between corporations that use data and people whose data is used. A growing number of scholars see digital data and information commons as a way to counteract this asymmetry. In this paper I raise two concerns with this argument: First, because digital data and information can be in more than one place at once, governance models for physical common-pool resources cannot be easily transposed to digital commons. Second, not all data and information commons are suitable to address power differentials. In order to create digital commons that effectively address power asymmetries we must pay more systematic attention to the issue of exclusion from digital data and information commons. Why and how digital data and information commons exclude, and what the consequences of such exclusion are, decide whether commons can change power asymmetries or whether they are more likely to perpetuate them.
Keywords: Digital data | digital information | commons | exclusion | governance
Big Data, precision medicine and private insurance: A delicate balancing act
داده های بزرگ، پزشکی دقیق و بیمه خصوصی: یک موازنه ظریف-2019
In this paper, we discuss how access to health-related data by private insurers, other than affecting the interests of prospective policy-holders, can also influence their propensity to make personal data available for research purposes. We take the case of national precision medicine initiatives as an illustrative example of this possible tendency. Precision medicine pools together unprecedented amounts of genetic as well as phenotypic data. The possibility that private insurers could claim access to such rapidly accumulating biomedical Big Data or to health-related information derived from it would discourage people from enrolling in precision medicine studies. Should that be the case, the economic value of personal data for the insurance industry would end up affecting the public value of data as a scientific resource. In what follows we articulate three principles – trustworthiness, openness and evidence – to address this problem and tame its potentially harmful effects on the development of precision medicine and, more generally, on the advancement of medical science.
Keywords: Precision medicine | Big Data | information asymmetry | ethics | insurance | adverse selection