Performing the social through data: how can things be otherwise?

Performing the social through data: how can things be otherwise?

In her data tale, Liz Coll explained how happy her sister was that a Facebook movie automatically generated about her life was not at all representative. The idea of being ‘known’ by companies through data is an interesting if not troubling possibility and clearly Liz’s sister took some glee in Facebook failing to really know her. In his un-session reporting back, Colin Strong highlighted how crude some data analytics currently are, yet, as his research indicates, there are moments when we can find the insights from data uncanny, provoking a sense of unease because they are a bit too close to what we know about ourselves. These conversations surface some distinctive ideas of what it is to be known as an individual. We find there to be different practices of ‘knowing’ at work that rely on vastly different sources of information and logics of reasoning. Deducing personal characteristics about people through the analysis of social data such as Facebook ‘likes’ feels to many of us like a very peculiar way of ‘knowing’ people. We’re seeing data ‘perform the social’ in a very different way to social experiences we are familiar with.

 

In what ways do data-centric models of the social refigure the individual and social life? What role if any should we play in this and how might we want things to be different?

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