Frameworks for future critical STS studies

Annette Markham

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


STS scholarship can be activist and interventionist by raising consciousness about the automated and algorithmic processes that increasingly filter the information we see about the world around us, select what is relevant on our behalf, and even curate our memories. This presentation addresses four conceptual trajectories that can be use to build a framework for critical STS scholarship in digital futures. Datafication. This term marks the growing tendency to digitize, quantify, and transform human experience into data. When used as part of big data calculations, our experiences are equalized and flattened into data points, giving the illusion that all experiences are equally meaningful and ultimately accessible. Our digital traces are stored in large government and privately held data centers, bought and sold for marketing, personalization of apps, or just to keep track of us. Data are simultaneously invisible and everywhere. They assume an “itness,” making their qualities seem concrete and incontrovertible. Algorithmic interpellation happens as algorithms manipulate data and feed us information about ourselves. Future norms and structures are emerging through current designs and frameworks for thinking about social media platforms; the automated and corporatized features of these platforms do not necessarily operate in the best interest of people. In such contexts, where is the locus of control? As information becomes digitized, such as family photos, letters, and other everyday artifacts, information that helps individuals remember gets lost in deep file structures and outdated devices. Although there are many apps and programs to help us sort through these datasets, the digitizing processes has not significantly improved our ability to seamlessly retrieve and make sense of past events. At a broader structural level, similar question can be raised: What is the role of social media platforms in creating our memories? How much does the automated Facebook curation of our Year in Review exhibit, for example, dictate the stories that will eventually be understood as individual memory, generational history, and cultural heritage? What role do these three processes play in larger structures of Hegemonic culturing? Whatever we define as meaningful is at least a complex play of negotiations, alignments and realignments within society. How do digital infrastructures or platforms neutralize and naturalize certain ways of being while obscuring other alternatives? This question is important particularly when and if people don’t think of datafication or algorithms as problems at all. A subtle shift in the discourse over the past 20 years indicates a growing acceptance of the ‘fact’ of constant surveillance and mass data collection by companies that provide users with applications, platforms, and devices. At the same time, individuals are increasingly held personally responsible for actions online, while the platforms and infrastructures are portrayed as natural carriers and neutral collectors of data.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventDASTS. Danish STS Annual conference 2016: Interpellating Futures - Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 2 Jun 20163 Jun 2016


ConferenceDASTS. Danish STS Annual conference 2016
LocationAarhus University


  • Futures
  • futures research
  • Ethnography
  • critical ethnography
  • STS methods


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  • Future Making Reseach Network

    Markham, A., Waltorp, K., Lanzeni, D., Baskin Coffey, V., Tiidenberg, K., Pereira, G. & Benfield, D. M.


    Project: Research

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