178. The Politics of Data beyond Representation

danah boyd, Microsoft Research; Chuncheng Liu, UC San Diego; Jayshree Sarathy, Harvard University; 

Data plays a critical role in shaping our understanding of the world, influencing our actions, and informing our decision-making processes. Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars have demonstrated that data never objectively represents the object it seeks to capture, highlighting its inherent politics. This is particularly important because data aims not only to be representative but also performative. In other words, data does things, and sociotechnical actors do things with data. To further explore the politics of data, this panel aims to bring together scholars to interrogate data utility and performativity, with a particular emphasis on the contexts in which data is used. STS scholars are invited to highlight knowledge performances and infrastructures around data that stabilize notions of "usefulness" across different contexts. The panel also aims to investigate modes of manipulation or repair that can influence the perceived usefulness of data. The panel's objectives are to: 1) examine the concepts of data utility and accuracy in various contexts, 2) highlight knowledge performances surrounding data and investigate the factors that make these performances fail or succeed, 3) explore epistemic networks, communities of practice, and infrastructures that define and contest the usefulness of data, and 4) theorize data manipulation and repair in relation to data usefulness. We encourage papers that draw on empirical research, theoretical analysis, or critical reflection, and that engage with a range of fields, societies, and methodologies to expand the scope of inquiries into the politics of data in broader organizational, institutional, social, and cultural contexts.

Contact:danah@danahboyd.orgchcheng.liu@gmail.com, jsarathy@g.harvard.edu

Keywords: Information, Computing and Media Technology, Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning, Data and Quantification

Published: 04/07/2023