Project Description:

“data activism

We live in a time of data abundance, one in which data is not merely a commodity or a tool for surveillance, but also a metaphor of power. With the diffusion of ‘big data’, citizens increasingly engage in new social practices rooted in technology and data, which we term data activism. With data activism we indicate the broad range of socio-technical practices that take a critical approach to massive data collection. It emerges out of existing activism sub-cultures, such as the hacker and the open-source movements, but overcomes their elitist character to involve also ordinary users. It concerns both individuals and groups, and operates at different territorial levels, from local to transnational. It takes two forms. First, citizens increasingly resist by means of technical fixes the threats to civil and human rights that derive from corporate privacy intrusion and government surveillance (re-active data activism). Second, people take advantage of the possibilities for civic engagement, advocacy, and campaigning that big data offer (pro-active data activism). ‘Re-active’ and ‘pro-active’ identify two facets of the same phenomenon: both take information as a constitutive force in society capable to shape social reality [1], and are enabled (and constrained) by software. By increasingly involving average users, they are a signal of a change in perspective and attitude towards massive data collection emerging within the civil society realm.

[1] Braman, Sandra (2006). Change of State. Information, Policy and Power. MIT Press”

Funder: European Research Council


Host institution (s): University of Amsterdam

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