Digital data increasingly plays a central role in contemporary politics and public life. Citizen voices are increasingly mediated by proprietary social media platforms and are shaped by algorithmic ranking and re-ordering, but data informs how states act, too. This special issue wants to shift the focus of the conversation. Non-governmental organizations, hackers, and activists of all kinds provide a myriad of ‘alternative’ interventions, interpretations, and imaginaries of what data stands for and what can be done with it.
Jonathan Gray starts off this special issue by suggesting how data can be involved in providing horizons of intelligibility and organising social and political life. Helen Kennedy’s contribution advocates for a focus on emotions and everyday lived experiences with data. Lina Dencik puts forward the notion of ‘surveillance realism’ to explore the pervasiveness of contemporary surveillance and the emergence of alternative imaginaries. Stefan Baack investigates how data are used to facilitate civic engagement. Miren Gutiérrez explores how activists can make use of data infrastructures such as databases, servers, and algorithms. Finally, Leah Horgan and Paul Dourish critically engage with the notion of data activism by looking at everyday data work in a local administration. Further, this issue features an interview with Boris Groys by Thijs Lijster, whose work Über das Neue enjoys its 25th anniversary last year. Lastly, three book reviews illuminate key aspects of datafication. Patricia de Vries reviews Metahavens’ Black Transparency; Niels van Doorn writes on Platform Capitalism by Nick Srnicek and Jan Overwijk comments on The Entrepeneurial Self by Ulrich Bröckling.
With contributions from:
Lonneke van der Velden, Stefania Milan, Jonathan Gray, Stefan Baack, Helen Kennedy, Lina Dencik, Miren Gutiérrez, Leah Horgan, Paul Dourish, Thijs Lijster, Patricia de Vries, Niels van Doorn and Jan Overwijk