Living Big Data: Datafication in everyday practices of participatory surveillance

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Many scholars have critiqued the datalogical turn for neglecting aspects of social life that cannot be aggregated by these tools. Importantly, ethnographic methods like interviews, have much to offer when it comes to exploring the lived experience of datafication. Drawing on findings from in-depth interviews with 17 Danish families in 2017, this paper explores the habits and desires that motivates the disclosure of personal information online (both intentional and unintentional), as well as how the reconstitution of many everyday objects and interactions to digital, data-enhanced virtual forms necessarily unsettles and alters existing relations. Our analysis shows that use of mobile and social media in families enables ‘remote parenting’, ‘connected presence’ and increased autonomy for the child, but simultaneously gives rise to ambivalences, negotiations and anxieties around children’s wellbeing, safety and privacy. We argue that these equivocations are moments of the participatory surveillance dynamics that characterize datification. We contend that a micro-level analysis of everyday practices that make the collection of big data possible offers valuable insights and troubles the, at times broad analytic strokes, big data can provide, and we thus seek to add nuances to the structural analyses that draw on big data.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventBig Data and the Power of Narrative - ITU, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 21 Mar 201922 Mar 2019


SeminarBig Data and the Power of Narrative
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