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Uncertain Archives afternoon feat. Evelyn Ruppert – University of Copenhagen

Uncertain Archives afternoon feat. Evelyn Ruppert

Where are the political subjects of Big Data?

Professor Evelyn Ruppert, Goldsmiths, University of London

I pose the question of where are the political subjects – who I will refer to as data citizens - of Big Data in two senses. The first concerns conceptions of and relation between online and offline lives, and between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ spaces. To pose the question of where are data citizens involves problematizing these conceptions and then asking where is the space of their becoming? The second concerns conceptions of agency and power and assumptions that subjects are either controlled or free. To pose the question of where are data citizens involves problematizing this binary and then asking through what processes do data subjects become data citizens? Those are my questions for my talk and they start from the proposition that studies of Big Data are proliferating, yet we lack concepts for framing and interpreting what these mean for political subjectivities and their relation to the data that are generated and interpreted. My objective is to provide a theory of digital acts and digital citizens that builds on this proposition to provide an approach that attends to the uncertainties of political subjectivity that involve power relations between and amongst embodied subjects who act through the Internet and in doing so are part of the making of data. By attending to this uncertainty I seek to articulate the potentialities and possibilities of acting and what this means for how we come to interpret Big Data.

Evelyn Ruppert is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She studies the sociology of data specifically in relation to how different kinds of data are constituted and mobilised to enact and govern populations. Evelyn is PI of a five-year European Research Council funded project, Peopling Europe: How data make a people (ARITHMUS; 2014-19). She is also Founding and Editor-in-chief of a SAGE open access journal, Big Data & Society: Critical Interdisciplinary Inquiries, launched in June 2014. Recent books are Being Digital Citizens (authored with Engin Isin) published in April 2015 (RLI International) and Modes of Knowing (edited with John Law) published in August 2016 (Mattering Press).