Categories of ‘use’: Consumer / Citizen / User

Categories of ‘use’: Consumer / Citizen / User

Individual actors involved in making and using data were framed as ‘consumers,’ ‘citizens’ and ‘users’. At times we used these terms interchangeably and seemingly without a great deal of thought or reflection. The question of what to do about this difference was aptly raised by Alison Powell in her provocative talk. As Alison made clear, these terms are not neutral – they reflect our own alignments and entanglements with particular areas or fields. Such partial standpoints matter, because the way we frame the actors using ‘data’ does much to shape the debates. For example, describing individuals as consumers results in different kinds of possibilities, than understanding them as citizens. At the same time, a consensus was found amongst a number of participants that these terms are rapidly changing, blending and overlapping. This seemed particularly evident for the category consumer.

 

How do we develop a shared vocabulary for the most basic of agents and entities in these discussions and, at the same time, how do we ensure we understand the role such a vocabulary plays in defining the debates and outcomes?

 

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