On the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies hosted the fifth annual Research & Inquiry Conference. In a time of growing skepticism concerning knowledge claims and institutions, the 2018 conference theme was Reclaiming Expertise: Facing Challenges to Knowledge, Practice, Authenticity, & Trust.
What are the responses to this shift for research, scholarship, creative work, teaching and learning, intellectual freedom, autonomy and agency, public life and informed opinion, citizenship, and the communities we are from and where we work and live?
In the last decade we have witnessed a radical transformation in knowledge practices, as governments, businesses, educational institutions, healthcare providers and multiple other agents have started to turn all aspects of everyday life into data (Cukier & Mayor-Schoenberger, 2013). This process of ‘datafication of everything’ is leading to the creation of large datasets of very intimate, private and sensitive information about citizens’ lives. This latter point is particularly evident if we consider the ways in which children’s data is gathered, stored and integrated in ways that were not possible before. Today, from the moment in which a child is conceived, important biometric information is uploaded on social media or pregnancy apps. As children grow up most of their health and educational data is digitised, archived and sold by privately owned corporations. All these different forms of data monitoring and processing are just the tip of the iceberg, and the picture becomes much more complex if we consider the role played by home hubs, artificial intelligence systems, facial recognition technologies and genetic mapping.
The talk drew on the findings of the Child | Data | Citizen Project, an ethnographically informed research project that investigates the relationship between children’s data traces and new understandings of digital citizenship. The talk explores the multiple variety of data traces that are produced daily about children and critically considers how these data traces can be used to profile them as citizen subjects. In contrast to theories of panopticon surveillance (Lyon, 2014) or quantified selves (Lupton and Williamson, 2017) the aim of the talk is to shed light on the messiness and inaccuracy of the process of datafication in family life. It will show that there is a clear human disconnect between technological structures and everyday practices, as families most of the times do not use the technologies as they are supposed to or use these technologies in tactical ways to avoid dataveillance. The highly diverse forms of data collection technologies combined with the unpredictability of human practices is leading to the creation of large amounts of personal information that is often fragmented, imprecise and mistaken. In this context, the talk will conclude we need to start tackling serious questions about data traces, algorithmic inaccuracies and profiling.
Dr Barassi is Faculty Member in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University of London, and the convenor of the BA Anthropology and Media Degree. She is one of the founders of the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group and the Chair of the E-Seminars of the Media Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropology. She is the principal Investigator on the Child | Data | Citizen Project (Funded by the British Academy) and was the principal investigator on the ‘Social Movements and Media Technologies: Present Challenges and Future Developments’ Seminar series’ (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK 2015-2017). She is the author of Activism on the Web: Everyday Struggles against Digital Capitalism (Routledge, 2015), and her work on digital participation, datafication and citizenship has been published by top ranked academic journals.