Big Data from the South(s). An Analytical Matrix to Investigate Data at the Margins
Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2021). Big Data From the South(s): An Analytical Matrix to Investigate Data at the Margins. In D. Rohlinger & S. Sobieraj (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Digital Media (pp. 1–21). Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780
19 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: September 30, 2021
Datafication—through which many aspects of social life are transformed into data—is usually equated with a more efficient use of resources and improved state–citizen relations. But it can have negative consequences on those at the margins of society, such as refugees, racialized individuals, gig workers, and citizens of countries with scant respect for human rights. How can we understand the ways in which the disempowered are impacted by and resist datafication? This essay presents an analytical matrix to study data at the margins. The matrix identifies three components of data at the margins: (1) infrastructure, emphasizing the material dimension; (2) practices, pinpointing agency in people’s encounters with datafication; and (3) imaginaries, that is, the cultural and symbolic facets of data at the margins. The matrix offers also three lenses of interpretation through which to observe the components: (1) decoloniality and race, (2) intersectionality and feminism, and (3) the “pluriverse.” Together, they help in questioning datafication and why certain social groups are oppressed while uncovering pathways toward justice and equality.
Keywords: datafication, artificial intelligence, data infrastructure, data imaginary, data practice, political agency, decoloniality, intersectionality, feminism, pluriverse
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