Ubiquitous datafication. Regimes of data processing and the struggle for critics

Using digital information to organize (social) life seems to be the preferred modus operandi of contemporary societies. However, the underlying sociotechnical arrangements – such as big data, algorithms, internet of things, wearables, cloud infrastructures, prediction logics etc. – clearly generate sociopolitical challenges. Frequently, datafication is envisioned as a form of techno-social progress; its power to capture and connect, transform and visualize is perceived as an opportunity to enhance the status quo. Contrary to this, datafication is conceptualized as a phenomenon containing unpredictable risks for social life. In this regard it is often seen as a supporting mode to quantify, track, predict, monitor, analyze and eventually restrict the agency of subjects and populations alike. Obviously, the cultural-technological phenomenon in question is not a category that can be conceptualized as neutral but has to be seen inherently political.

With my dissertation project I will take current uncertainties into focus and develop a definition of modern data critics that aim at reconfiguring datafication’s underlying processes, infrastructures and technologies. I therefore examine questions data critical actors raise, their visions and social as well as technology based answers in form of expressed concerns and created sociotechnical artifacts. These practices and artifacts (e.g. applications) implicitly carry inscriptions of problematizations as well as specific ways of addressing a problem and producing one (seeming) solution for it.

Phillip Arms

2016 - 2019