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Society for Social Studies of Science

Invited Session

Making Sense of Data Revolutions: STS Perspectives on the Social Dimensions and EthicalObligations of Digital Media Technologies and Data Production

Saturday, September 2

Organizer and Chair: Mary L. Gray

Breathless anticipation greeted the power of AI this past year, just as near unbridled enthusiasm met the volume and velocity of Big Data two years before that. And a mere decade ago, the social media revolution of Web 2.0 heralded the beginning of a true global village. These iterations of digital media qua social technology share at least one thing in common: they position “data” as goldmines of social life, rich with meaning and potential. Boston, MA, has long been an incubator for technology start-ups and data brokers deeply invested in capturing data as traces of social exhaust and converting them into powerful tools for commerce, political will and cultural change. How should we make sense of the consistent refrain of data as revolutionary? Is it a new site of promising, unfettered social interaction? A more direct conduit of political expression? A window into how social worlds really work? This Program Committee-sponsored panel aims to consider how STS scholars might bring their frameworks and tools to bear on the relationships that bind data production, media technologies, and optimistic futures. Speakers reflect on how we might theorize new approaches to data production as sites and evidence for critical analysis, while challenging scholarly communities to explore their own practices and obligations when using the data of media technologies for their own sense-making and argumentation. Finally, we invite all participants and audience members to examine their own investments in science and technologies as vehicles for progressive futures.

Confirmed Panelists:

Ifeoma Ajunwa (Cornell University, Ithaca, USA)

Christian Sandvig (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA)

Kalpana Shankar (University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

Zeynep Tufekci (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA)

Mary L. Gray, Moderator (Microsoft Research, Cambridge, USA)