Critical Data Literacy, Creative Media and Social Equality Research project

buttons-19755_640 copyMy new research project is about to start (once a Research Assistant joins me: see job ad here). I have become very interested lately in what can constitute the principles of a critical data literacy that is central for citizen engagement. Big data are everywhere, and they are transforming the way we live. But making sense of data and communicating in ways that are relevant to broad audiences and for the social good requires the skills and literacy to access, analyse and interpret them. My new University of Brighton research project addresses the need to develop practices that allow citizens to work with data, to make data more relevant and appealing to communities, and enable their engagement in policy debates. Instead then of focusing on enhancing data analysis and technical skills, I am interested to explore how a combination of creative media, storytelling and analytics allows participants to generate debates around specific issues that affect their communities.

I will be working with community organisations in the Brighton area, running a Datahub workshop focusing on sexuality/gender as they play out with other social issues, such as poverty, unemployment and housing. For updates see





Research and Enterprise Excellence Awards University of Brighton

This summer I was honoured to receive the 2016/2017 University of Brighton Early Career Research & Enterprise Award.  Nominated by the Head of School Helen W Kennedy for my work in digital culture, emerging technologies and social change, I received the award alongside five other awards that went to very inspirational colleagues, such as Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour and Jo Wilding for Impact of their examination of the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK.

The Research and Enterprise Excellence Awards are a celebration of success across the research and enterprise community at the University of Brighton.

For the 2016/2017 awards, nominations were invited to recognise the achievements of colleagues who have produced a body of work that has demonstrated significant impact or engagement within the last twelve months. The judging panel comprised the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise), the Directors of Research and Development and the Director of Research, Enterprise and Social Partnerships. Awards were presented at the inaugural Research and Enterprise Conference on Monday 5 June 2017.

ECREA Conference in Prague next week

e34109_a894f728926943c1ac5bcd07469a9d87mv2I look forward to the ECREA conference in Prague. It has been 7 years since my first ECREA involvement in the PhD summerschool in Estonia in 2009, which is a long time ago! I am stepping up to be elected as Chair of the Digital Culture and Communication Section this year, after 2 years tenure as Vice Chair and another 2 years as YECREA Representative prior to that.

I am also excited about our panel session Imagining Data Futures: Mediated (Dis)Continuities in Everyday Life and the Lab (on November 11th, 16:00 – 17:30, Meeting Hall 4/A), with Ryan Burns and Maria Sourbati, and with Stefan Baack. Prof Helen Kennedy (Sheffield) will be respondent.  

Join us in Prague, and if you are a parent maybe you are interested in the Academic parents group and information that we set up for the conference with Tereza.

Imagining Data Futures: Mediated (Dis)Continuities in Everyday Life and the Lab, on November 11th, 16:00 – 17:30, Meeting Hall 4/A

Chair: Helen Kennedy, United Kingdom
Panellist:  R. Burns, United Kingdom
Panellist:  M. Sourbati, United Kingdom
Panellist:  A. Fotopoulou, United Kingdom

Materiality, Publicness & Digital Media

cropped-headerI look forward to talking at the workshop Materiality, Publicness and Digital Media, at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies. The workshop is part of the Series ‘Trajectories of Publicness and Contestation’ series, (25-26 October 2016). This second workshop in the series focuses on materiality, aiming to explore and theorize how popular protests are articulated through particular technologies and material settings (ranging from face-to-face communication to global social platforms), which ‘mediate’ how these protests take shape.

My session is called (Dis)engagement & Disobedience (Chair: Stefania Milan), with co-speakers Anne Kaun (Södertörn University) who will be talking about ‘Disconnection activism: the slow media movement’, Sebastian Kubitschko & Sigrid Kannengießer, (University of Bremen) who will present on ‘Repairing and hacking as examples of acting on materiality’, and I will be talking about ‘Feminist ‘smart’ publics: Feminism in the era of the Quantified Self’ – work that I have developed in my book and here.

Queering big data

images-32Back from Berlin, having met so many good people. After the discussions in the Feminist Big Data plenary and the Bodies session (in AioR 2016), I am sharing here the key points of my intervention. In the paper that I presented in the Bodies panel, I talked about my research on reproductive health and wellbeing apps and cultures of self-tracking. A steady line of inquiry in my current work and in my book, that is coming out in March,  is the reshaping of feminist practices with digital media. I find it necessary to ask what form feminist politics around reproductive rights take with new data practices, and more generally, what might a feminist critique to data collection look like? For me, this use raises some critical social, political and ethical questions around data ownership and power, labour and exploitation. But they also offer the possibility for new modes of engagement with our bodies, our data, and with biomedical knowledge; they also may present new  feminist frontiers and realities.

My provocation during the plenary discussion, as a contribution to what a feminist approach to big data would entail, was about queering big data. First, I brought as an example the QSXX groups (women-identified only Quantified Self meet-ups), to suggest the necessity for situated (digital media) practices in relation to self-tracking and big data – I write about these in my new book on Feminist activism and Digital Networks. I used ‘situated’ borrowing from Donna Haraway’s work on seeing things from an always partial perspective and from the social context where one finds themselves standing in. Why is it necessary and relevant to a feminist big data perspective to look at situated practices like this? Because such spaces and groups may be reflexive of the exclusions they perform and of their own privilege. And because here ‘small data’ approaches and storytelling can be politically productive ways of working with data.

Then I argued that we need to move beyond critiques of masculinist design, and actually queer big data. How? First, queering data, as a critique means resisting the marketing pitch of products and services that reproduce the heterosexual, nuclear family. Second, we need to turn the discourse of risk around, and conceptualise uncertainty and risk in ways that don’t victimise women, but instead, enable political action. And third, we need to challenge the positivist perception that more data will bring about more certainty in the future.

This is an epigrammatic post, and probably only resonates with those already in the audience, but after the wealth of tweets from the two talks, some misconceptions that need clarification, and requests for slides, I thought I’d leave this here, before the more elaborate discussion of the journal article (and the book) come out.