Category Archives: emerging technologies

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A video recording of the talk “Understanding data power from a feminist perspective”, which I gave at the 3rd International DATA POWER Conference global in/securities, an be accessed here. (hosted by the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen in cooperation with the Universities of Carleton, Canada, and Sheffield, UK, 12-13 September 2019)

You can read the relevant chapter in Fotopoulou, A. (2019). Understanding citizen data practices from a feminist perspective: embodiment and the ethics of care. In Stephansen, H. and Trere, E. (eds) Citizen Media and Practice.Taylor & Francis/Routledge: Oxford. See Google Books here 

An updated written version will appear in my forthcoming book Fotopoulou, A. Forthcoming. Feminist Data Studies: big data, critique and social justice. SAGE Publications.

Paper abstract

This theoretical paper introduces how the notion of “care”, as developed in feminist science and technology studies (de la Bellacasa 2011), can be a productive analytical and critical approach when scrutinizing the manifestation of power relations in data practices. The matters of power and the politics of data have far reaching implications for the politics of the everyday. The paper argues that approaching such political issues in data practices as “matters of care” allows us to account for their affective, embodied and material elements, including the habitually devalued human labour of data users, activists, producers, consumers and citizens. Outlining the differences between justice (Dencik et al. 2016, Taylor 2017) and ethics approaches to data power, it is further shown that, guided by the question “Why do we care?”, the notion of care inserts particularity and empathy in social justice frameworks. The paper provides examples of areas of application of an approach to data power guided by feminist politics of care, alongside issues of data governance, regulating the data-driven economy and data privacy laws. In this way the paper maps a theoretical roadmap of feminist data studies and practice theory, which is focused on materiality and embodiment and is committed to unsettling the power relation of race, class, gender and ability in datafied worlds.

References

de la Bellacasa, M.P., 2011. Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social studies of science, 41(1), pp.85-106.

Dencik, L., Hintz, A. and Cable, J., 2016. Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism. Big Data & Society, 3(2), p.2053951716679678.

Taylor, L., 2017. What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society, 4(2), p.2053951717736335.

 

Feminist approaches to data practices at Data Power Conference

Our panel “Feminist approaches to data practices” has been accepted at the 3rd International DATA POWER Conference global in/securities, hosted by the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen in cooperation with the Universities of Carleton (Canada) and Sheffield (UK), 12-13 September 2019.

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Here is the line-up of papers, in alphabetic order, and the panel rationale.

  • Lina Dencik: “Situating data (justice) in critical social theory”
  • Catherine D’Ignazio & Lauren Klein: “Data Feminism”
  • Aristea Fotopoulou: “Understanding data power from a feminist perspective: embodiment and the politics of care”
  • Stefania Milan: “What feminist theory of datafication emerges from contemporary data activism?”

PANEL RATIONALE

Data-based systems and technologies pose pressing issues in relation to social justice, and there is great need for focused and explicit critiques that addresses intersecting structural inequalities such as gender, race, ability and sexuality. Embarking from conceptualisations of data practice, this panel explores how feminist theoretical, methodological and praxis approaches can help us understand the structures of power and privilege is datafied worlds.

The programme will be announced soon.

Critical Data Literacy, Creative Media and Social Equality Research project

My new research project is about to start (once a Research Assistant joins me: see job ad here). I have become very interested lately in what can constitute the principles of a critical data literacy that is central for citizen engagement. Big data are everywhere, and they are transforming the way we live. But making sense of data and communicating in ways that are relevant to broad audiences and for the social good requires the skills and literacy to access, analyse and interpret them. My new University of Brighton research project addresses the need to develop practices that allow citizens to work with data, to make data more relevant and appealing to communities, and enable their engagement in policy debates. Instead then of focusing on enhancing data analysis and technical skills, I am interested to explore how a combination of creative media, storytelling and analytics allows participants to generate debates around specific issues that affect their communities.

I will be working with community organisations in the Brighton area, running a Datahub workshop focusing on sexuality/gender as they play out with other social issues, such as poverty, unemployment and housing. For updates see https://criticaldataliteracy.com.

 

 

 

Gender, self-tracking and feminism Podcast

dhdc-podcast-logo-4A while ago I was interviewed by Chris Till  for his exciting podcast Digital Health/ Digital Capitalism. It was an interesting discussion and Chris asked me about a few things: we talked about the concept of “biopedagogy” and training with wearables and other tracking technologies, which I wrote about with Kate O’Riordan in a special issue about self-tracking in Health Sociology Review, edited by Deborah Lupton. We also talked about gender and the Quantified Self, which I analyse in Chapter 4 (“From Egg Donation to Fertility Apps: Feminist Knowledge Production and Reproductive Rights”) of my new book Feminist Activism and Digital Networks.

I also taked to Chris about how I am thinking about the moral economy of data sharing and how we perform ‘good citizenship’ with self-tracking technologies, which I have written about in a fantastic new book (more info to follow soon). And of course we talked about my research on fertility apps, which is also a forthcoming publication.

The podcast series has been hosting very influential scholars who think critically about  digital health, so it is really worth listening to if you are interested in the field.

Queering big data

images-32Back from Berlin, having met so many good people. After the discussions in the Feminist Big Data plenary and the Bodies session (in AioR 2016), I am sharing here the key points of my intervention. In the paper that I presented in the Bodies panel, I talked about my research on reproductive health and wellbeing apps and cultures of self-tracking. A steady line of inquiry in my current work and in my book, that is coming out in March,  is the reshaping of feminist practices with digital media. I find it necessary to ask what form feminist politics around reproductive rights take with new data practices, and more generally, what might a feminist critique to data collection look like? For me, this use raises some critical social, political and ethical questions around data ownership and power, labour and exploitation. But they also offer the possibility for new modes of engagement with our bodies, our data, and with biomedical knowledge; they also may present new  feminist frontiers and realities.

My provocation during the plenary discussion, as a contribution to what a feminist approach to big data would entail, was about queering big data. First, I brought as an example the QSXX groups (women-identified only Quantified Self meet-ups), to suggest the necessity for situated (digital media) practices in relation to self-tracking and big data – I write about these in my new book on Feminist activism and Digital Networks. I used ‘situated’ borrowing from Donna Haraway’s work on seeing things from an always partial perspective and from the social context where one finds themselves standing in. Why is it necessary and relevant to a feminist big data perspective to look at situated practices like this? Because such spaces and groups may be reflexive of the exclusions they perform and of their own privilege. And because here ‘small data’ approaches and storytelling can be politically productive ways of working with data.

Then I argued that we need to move beyond critiques of masculinist design, and actually queer big data. How? First, queering data, as a critique means resisting the marketing pitch of products and services that reproduce the heterosexual, nuclear family. Second, we need to turn the discourse of risk around, and conceptualise uncertainty and risk in ways that don’t victimise women, but instead, enable political action. And third, we need to challenge the positivist perception that more data will bring about more certainty in the future.

This is an epigrammatic post, and probably only resonates with those already in the audience, but after the wealth of tweets from the two talks, some misconceptions that need clarification, and requests for slides, I thought I’d leave this here, before the more elaborate discussion of the journal article (and the book) come out.