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.

Surfacing Small Worlds through Data-In-Place

Very happy to have another pub­lic­a­tion from the monu­ment­al Ten­ison Road pro­ject, this time in the Journ­al of Computer-Supported Cooper­at­ive Work (CSCW).

Lind­ley, S.E., Thieme, A., Taylor, A.S. et al. (2017). Sur­fa­cing Small Worlds through Data-In-Place. Com­puter Sup­por­ted Cooper­at­ive Work.

An exten­ded engage­ment with a com­munity and its data



We present find­ings from a five-week deploy­ment of vot­ing tech­no­lo­gies in a city neigh­bour­hood. Draw­ing on Mar­res’ (2012) work on mater­i­al par­ti­cip­a­tion and Massey’s (2005) con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion of space as dynam­ic, we designed the deploy­ment such that the tech­no­lo­gies (which were situ­ated in res­id­ents’ homes, on the street, and avail­able online) would work in con­cert, cut­ting across the neigh­bour­hood to make vis­ible, jux­ta­pose and draw togeth­er the dif­fer­ent small worlds’ with­in it. We demon­strate how the mater­i­al infra­struc­ture of the vot­ing devices set in motion par­tic­u­lar pro­cesses and inter­pret­a­tions of par­ti­cip­a­tion, put­ting data in place in a way that had rami­fic­a­tions for the recog­ni­tion of het­ero­gen­eity. We con­clude that redis­trib­ut­ing par­ti­cip­a­tion means not only open­ing up access, so that every­one can par­ti­cip­ate, or even provid­ing a mul­ti­tude of vot­ing chan­nels, so that people can par­ti­cip­ate in dif­fer­ent ways. Rather, it means mak­ing vis­ible mul­ti­pli­city, chal­len­ging notions of sim­il­ar­ity, and show­ing how dif­fer­ence may be pro­duct­ive.

See more on the CSCW site here. See an early draft here.

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.

on Leakiness and creepiness in app space”

I recently had an email exchange with Irina Shk­lovski in which she kindly sent me the paper she presen­ted at the CHI con­fer­ence this year. It’s a great paper, with some care­fully thought through insights into the data we pro­duce and (often inad­vert­ently) share when using smart phones. 

Irina Shk­lovski, Scott D. Main­war­ing, Hal­la Hrund Skúladót­tir, and Höskul­dur Bor­gthorsson. 2014. Leak­i­ness and creep­i­ness in app space: per­cep­tions of pri­vacy and mobile app use. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 32nd annu­al ACM con­fer­ence on Human factors in com­put­ing sys­tems (CHI 14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2347–2356. 

The paper got me think­ing about some broad­er (and long-standing) issues I’ve been work­ing through myself related to the researcher’s agen­tial (and often inad­vert­ent) role in empir­ic­al research. What fol­lows are some slightly amended com­ments I’ve shared with Irina. (more…)

Reading The sentient” city and what it may portend

A ram­bling piece in Big Data & Soci­ety by Nigel Thrift: The sen­tient’ city and what it may por­tend.


Wasn’t expect­ing the digres­sion into spir­its and per­form­ance art, but I do like Thrift’s con­tinu­al efforts to write about expans­ive human/agent capa­cit­ies and extend­ing the .

...the claim is being made that, as com­pu­ta­tion­al objects have developed, cit­ies are able to take on new forms of vital­ity (Stern, 2010), forms of vital­ity which can develop over time. Per­haps one way in which we might con­sider this ques- tion is pre­cisely through look­ing at how vital­ity devel- ops when com­pu­ta­tion­al things are expli­citly included in the con­tours of exper­i­ence. Then it becomes clear that it has only gradu­ally aris­en, line by line, algorithm by algorithm, pro­gram by pro­gram.

Thirft, N. (2014). The sen­tient” city and what it may por­tend. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(1).

Reading Data matter(s)

Wilson, M. W. (2011). Data matter(s): legit­im­acy, cod­ing, and qualifications-of-life. Envir­on­ment and Plan­ning D: Soci­ety and Space, 29(5), 857–872.

Really help­ful paper from Mat­thew Wilson on the inter­ming­lings of data and geo­graphy. Although more con­cen­trated on a par­tic­u­lar aspect of com­munity life (namely report­ing prob­lems or dam­age to loc­al facil­it­ies etc.), the paper has some strong rel­ev­ances for the Ten­ison Road pro­ject. Espe­cially use­ful are Wilson’s thoughts on mat­ter­ing in rela­tion to fem­in­ist tech­nos­cience and of course 
Wilson cites:
Har­away D J, 1991 Simi­ans, Cyborgs, and Women: The Rein­ven­tion of Nature (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1997 Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Fem­in­ism and Tech­nos­cience (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1999, Know­ledges and the ques­tion of alli­ances”, in Know­ledges and the Ques­tion of Alli­ances: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Nancy Hartsock, Don­na Har­away, and Dav­id Har­vey (Kane Hall, Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Seattle, WA)


After a tre­mend­ous about of work with Lara Hou­s­ton, I’m delighted to have finally gone live with our data poli­cy site: data​-poli​cy​.info. It attempts to detail, in vari­ous formats and cuts, the dis­cus­sions at the day of dia­logues on data, poli­cy and civic life, held at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge. More than this though, we want the site to pro­mote fur­ther dis­cus­sion and expand the ways we might think of the rela­tions between data, social/civic life, and poli­cy. For me, the inspir­a­tion here has been the work a few of us have been doing with Ten­ison Road in cam­bridge and a community’s efforts to make sense of and use its data. I’d like to think some­thing small and loc­al could make a dif­fer­ence in these big dis­cus­sions