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Data and Social Justice

Fri, May 25, 11:00 to 12:15, Hilton Prague, Floor: M, Karlin III

Session Submission Type: Panel


The technical ability to turn vast amounts of activity and human behavior into data points that can be tracked and profiled has led to significant changes across government, business and civil society. The advent of the sharing economy, developments in Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart homes and smart cities, alongside the increasing use of predictive analytics for decision-making across law-enforcement to advertising to government all illustrate how the systematic collection and analysis of massive data sets across our social life has been normalized and entrenched – what has been described as the ‘datafication’ of society (Cukier and Mayer-Schönberger 2013). Although some have hailed this as a new ‘industrial revolution of data’ (Hellerstein 2008) that allows for more efficient services and better responses to a range of social problems, it is also becoming increasingly clear that with the emergence of this data paradigm comes a new set of power dynamics requiring investigation and critique. Whilst much initial debate on mass data collection and analysis focused on issues of surveillance and privacy, debates are increasingly shifting towards a broader engagement with ‘data politics’ in terms of the performative power of or in data (Ruppert et al. 2017).

The panel intervenes in this debate by exploring the relationship between datafication and social justice, connecting growing concerns relating to the ways in which data processes are part of a system of ‘social sorting’ (Gandy 1998, Lyon 2003), create new alien categories of citizens (Ansorge 2016) and advance a new order of ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ between data profilers and data subjects (Citron and Pasquale 2014). Combining conceptual work on ‘data justice’ with engaged research on community experiences of data collection, questions of algorithmic bias and discrimination, developments in social justice-informed design, and implications for policy, the panel will further understandings of the role of data in different contexts. In so doing, we will consider the part of policy reform, technological design and activism in advancing social justice in an age of datafication.

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