Engaging with Data: Making Sense of Data

— Jeremy Hunsinger —

This panel was on critical engagements with data. It was a closed panel developed by Victoria Neuman and Marcus Burkhardt. I presented my research on Big Capta and the Digital Sensorium, arguing that we should begin to discuss most of the information used in the sensor society as capta, intead of data. Capta has a long history of scholarship on which we can build and the differentiation from data is important because it gives the subjects more power in their representation. Elements of this argument will appear in the International Handbook of Internet Research Vol. which should be out in 2018.

After my presentation, Michael Hockenhull of ITU Copenhagen presented a great paper on his research dealing with civicly sponsored data exchanges. This paper engaged with the framing of data to different audiences which provided for different motivations for the uptake and support of data exchanges. A data exchange is a marketplace in which companies and governments can buy and sell access to data.

Gabby Resch of the University of Toronto presented next, and he presented on the trends in the aestheticization of data, specifically the simplification of representation movement in big data. He argued that there are better more intuitive or artistic modes of representation that would serve people better.

The next presentation changed pace a little bit with a different form of data. Mike Thicke, a philosopher from Bard College, discussed his investigation into the epistemologies of climate change as found in citation networks. Particularly he was looking for how certain fields of climate science ground other areas of climate science.

Finally, the panel ended with Anja Bechman from Aarhus University. She presented her research into the pragmatic theory of social artificial intelligence, specifically looking at how data and algorithms are reframing the social and how the automated systems are classifying meaning in ways that are not necessarily productive for humans but are productive inside the system. Her work will soon end up in a book.

A discussion after the panel with questions by Markus Burkhardt and Geof Bowker amongst other added to the overall unity and critical direction of the panel, and pushed several of the research agendas forward.