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Message posted on 12/10/2021

TODAY: 12 Oct (5 pm BST) on Zoom: Antonia Walford's talk "Data, it’s not a thing: approaches to studying data and data practices ethnographically"

                Apologies for cross-posting.



The Philomathia Research Fellows at the University of Cambridge are
delighted to invite you to the first talk of the 2021-2022 Philomathia
Social Sciences Seminar Series.

*Today, 12th of October at 5 pm (BST), Dr Antonia Walford, lecturer in
Digital Anthropology at UCL, will be our speaker. The event* *will take
place via Zoom*. You can still register at:
https://cam-ac-uk.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEtduGgrDwpHNP_azChO-ZBGH5_O-PnqZ
2k


*Data, it’s not a thing: approaches to studying data and data practices
ethnographically*

One of the puzzling things about taking ‘data’ as the focus of
ethnographic
enquiry is not just the effort it takes to make it visible, but also the
extent to which it can somehow suddenly slip from view. The last decade has
been characterised by both massive hype in industry and business contexts
in the UK and US around the revolutionary power of big data, and no less
dramatic critical responses to that hype in the press and academia. But dig
a little deeper and clear definitions or parameters of data seem to
dissolve or multiply, despite legislative efforts to the contrary; data
seems to be valued for what it will become, not what it is. At the same
time, concepts like data power, data colonialism and data violence, which
foreground the very concrete, everyday and deleterious effects of data
practices on people’s lives, are proving useful tools for critical data
scholars. So what do we mean when we talk about data, and how can
ethnographers study this emergent socio-technical and political space?
Drawing on fieldwork conducted with scientists and technicians in the
Brazilian Amazon, in this talk I will be discussing some tactics or
strategies to make data not just visible, but graspable, as an ethnographic
subject and why we should bother doing so. After all, data’s not really a
thing, is it?

*Bio: *
Antonia Walford is a Lecturer in Digital Anthropology at University College
London. Their research explores the effects of the exponential growth of
digital data on social and cultural imaginaries and practices, with a focus
on the natural sciences and environmental politics. They have published
articles and chapters on topics such as data power and the politics of
informational practices in the sciences, data aesthetics, anthropological
methods and transdisciplinarity. They recently co-edited, with Rachel
Douglas-Jones and Nick Seaver, a special issue in The Journal of the Royal
Anthropological Institute, Towards an Anthropology of Data (2021).

We look forward to seeing you there,



Dr Ignacia Arteaga
Research Fellow and Affiliated Lecturer,

Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Research Fellow, Robinson College.
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