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Civic Data Practices as Care

Thu, August 31, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Sheraton Boston, 3, Fairfax A

Abstract

Although data, and in particular civic data, is often discussed in terms of efficiency, in our fieldwork and design, we are finding that notions of care are increasingly relevant for conceptualizing civic data and data practices. In this presentation I will share ongoing community-based design research with an Atlanta neighborhood that is engaging in a series of projects, collecting data about the community. The collection methods employed are varied and include surveys, interviews and observations, and different forms of sensing, across multiple sites and issues, by multiple stakeholder organizations. On the one hand the purposes of these efforts are distinct and diverse and include facilitating environmental repair, thwarting gentrification, and improving public safety. On the other hand, the purposes of these efforts all swirl around a common desire to care for the community, and the belief that data, in some way, can contribute to that care. How though, is unclear. In fact much of the work of these organizations and residents might be seen as a mode of speculative labor toward a future in which the data they collect comes to have value in the remediation of their community. Drawing on discourses in Science and Technology Studies I’ll discuss the various design strategies and tactics used by the community in both the collection and presentation of the data as practices of care and how these practices produce entangled publics that are, in part, constituted by their data practices.

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