Do data publics work?

I presen­ted at the Data Pub­lics con­fer­ence last week­end, at Lan­caster Uni­ver­sity. Got lots of help­ful feed­back to some early thoughts on pub­lics (think­ing with some of my old favour­ites, Despret, Har­away, Mar­res, Stengers, etc.).

Pro­voked by Vin­ciane Despret’s W for Work”, in What would anim­als say if we asked the right ques­tions?”, my start­ing point was the ques­tion:

Are we think­ing well
with data pub­lics?


Vin­ciane Despret (2016). W is for Work. In What Would Anim­als Say If We Asked the Right Ques­tions”. Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Press: 177–184.

Talk at RCA, Design Products

I had a very gen­er­ous slot for present­ing to some in Design Products at the RCA this week.

Slides from RCA Design Products talk Feb 2017

In this talk, I want to sug­gest we have spent too much time work­ing with the lim­its of capability—the lim­its of the per­cep­tu­al appar­at­us, the lim­its of cog­nit­ive capa­cit­ies, and the lim­its of how crit­ters (wheth­er human or non­hu­man) inter­act and relate to one another. Draw­ing on a fem­in­ist tech­nos­cience and using examples from recent field­work, I’ll aim to show that, togeth­er, we make ourselves cap­able. That cap­ab­il­ity isn’t lim­ited to some pre-given, indi­vidu­al state, but comes into being through (inter)action, through entangled rela­tions between act­ors of all kinds. This, I’ll claim, gives us a very dif­fer­ent way of think­ing about our rela­tions with tech­no­logy and espe­cially the prom­ise of AI and machine learn­ing. Rather than machines aim­ing to rep­lic­ate human cap­ab­il­ity, I want to pro­pose an expans­ive pro­ject that allows us the chance to ima­gine some­thing other-than’ finite cap­ab­il­it­ies, that sees cap­ab­il­ity as a becoming-with’, and lays open the pos­sib­il­it­ies for much much more.


I’m hop­ing to fine-tune and do a little tidy­ing of these ideas for this talk at the Know­ledge Lab (Insti­tute of Edu­ca­tion) later this month.


On Counting

Kat Jung­nick­el kindly invited me to a two day meet­ing as part of her con­tinu­ing series of Trans­mis­sions and Entan­gle­ments events. Amid­st oth­ers work­ing through new meth­ods and pro­cesses, here’s what I had to say for myself on count­ing:

What is it to count and to be coun­ted?

One way I have made sense of my work over the last 10 years at Microsoft has been to see it as a way of get­ting to grips with count­ing and in some ways com­ing to terms with being coun­ted. (more…)

Presenting Data in place”

We’re present­ing a paper at CHI this year on Ten­ison Road.

Alex S. Taylor, Siân Lind­ley, Tim Regan, Dav­id Sweeney, Vasil­is Vlachokyriakos, Lil­lie Grainger, Jes­sa Lin­gel (2015), Data-in-Place: Think­ing through the Rela­tions Between Data and Com­munity, CHI 2015.

Here’s the abstract:

We present find­ings from a year-long engage­ment with a street and its com­munity. The work explores how the pro­duc­tion and use of data is bound up with place, both in terms of phys­ic­al and social geo­graphy. We detail three strands of the pro­ject. First, we con­sider how res­id­ents have sought to cur­ate exist­ing data about the street in the form of an archive with phys­ic­al and digit­al com­pon­ents. Second, we report endeav­ours to cap­ture data about the street’s envir­on­ment, espe­cially of vehicle traf­fic. Third, we draw on the pos­sib­il­it­ies afforded by tech­no­lo­gies for polling opin­ion. We reflect on how these engage­ments have: mater­i­al­ised dis­tinct­ive rela­tions between the com­munity and their data; sur­faced flows and con­tours of data, and spa­tial, tem­por­al and social bound­ar­ies; and enacted a mul­ti­pli­city of small worlds’. We con­sider how such a con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion of data-in-place is rel­ev­ant to the design of tech­no­logy.

Talk at Austerity Futures?”

Abstract for upcom­ing talk at Aus­ter­ity Futures? sem­in­ar 4.

houses long B&W

[Big] data futures, from the street.

Stor­ies about big data are every­where. We’re being told how sig­ni­fic­ant the impact of big data will be on our lives by all kinds of people in the know. And yet I’ve been grap­pling with what (big) data might really mean to people who aren’t fully signed up mem­bers of the diger­ati, those shapers, makers and mod­ers of tech­no­lo­gic­al futures. I’ve pondered, in short, on two sim­ple ques­tions: how does data mat­ter to people on the street’, and how might they want it to mat­ter. In this talk, I’ll reflect on a pro­ject we’ve been build­ing up at Microsoft Research to begin work­ing through these ques­tions. I want to dis­cuss our efforts to ground a tech­no­lo­gic­al ima­gin­ary in ordin­ary life or, to put it another way, to enable a pro­duct­ive re-imagining of big data futures’—to coin a phrase—from the street’. I’ll describe how we’ve taken this chal­lenge quite lit­er­ally. Just over three weeks ago we began work­ing with one street in Cam­bridge, Ten­ison Road. For at least a year, we plan to think through what data means for the Ten­ison Road com­munity and in some cases to enable ways for the com­munity to inter­ve­ne in the future ima­gin­ar­ies. Although this won’t be a talk or for that mat­ter a pro­ject about aus­ter­ity, I cer­tainly think it is one in which aus­ter­ity and its reper­cus­sions will come to mat­ter. My aim, then, will be to reflect on how this is a pro­ject con­cerned with futures, futures that are heav­ily con­cen­trated in the minds of the tech­no­lo­gic­al elite, but also some that are more ped­es­tri­an that might just offer altern­at­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies for what (big) data could mean and what we might do with it.

web: ten​ison​road​.com | email: research@​tenisonroad.​com | twit­ter: @tenisonroad

Talk at INCITE-ing Transformation in Social Research


On Sat­urday (12 Oct) I presen­ted a short paper reflect­ing on INCITE’s achieve­ments over the last 10 or so years at INCITE-ing Trans­form­a­tion in Social Research


Ref­er­en­cing her New Media’s Inter­me­di­ar­ies art­icle, I want to glimpse back to reflect on how Nina Wake­ford posi­tioned INCITE and made sense of it again­st a back drop of cul­tur­al the­ory, sci­ence and tech­no­logy stud­ies, CSCW and soci­ology

.. And, in doing this, I also want to peer for­ward, to con­sider what troubles there might be ahead, and what pro­duct­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies we might ima­gine for ourselves. (more…)