Our Data Bodies: From Paranoia to Power

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Our Data Bodies: From Paranoia to Power
Presenter(s) Seeta Peña Gangadharan
Title(s) Assistant Professor
Organization(s) Media and Communications Department @ London School of Economics and Political Science
Project(s) Our Data Bodies Project
Country(ies) United Kingdom, United States
Social media
2017 theme The Community

From predictive policing to intelligent transport systems to workplace performance analytics, automated technologies increasingly permeate our everyday lives. For marginalized people, these technologies raise unique and challenging questions of autonomy, surveillance, and privacy. Our Data Bodies (O.D.B.) is a collaboration between academics and community-based organizations to explore the meaning and experience of privacy and data flows among poor and working class adults in three U.S. cities. We seek to uncover connections between marginalized people’s expressions about data flows and discussion of their material and emotional well being.

In this session, we’ll brainstorm and create effective ways to uncover how data systems work and can be transformed starting from the perspective of marginalized people impacted by these technologies. The Our Data Bodies Project will use information generated by this session to inform popular education tools, including a popular guide to data-driven discrimination and a community workbook for confronting different automated, data-driven systems.

In this participatory, hands-on workshop, we will focus on Detroit, Michigan, one of O.D.B.’s three project sites. We’ll begin with a quick overview of the national project and zoom in on Detroit’s engagement through Data DiscoTechs. These DiscoTechs provide a space for city residents to learn about data systems and data governance issues as well as represent, create, and imagine data systems that work for them and their needs.

The heart of the workshop will involve scenario-based problem solving. Participants will be assigned to different scenarios that detail basic information about an individual or group of individuals interacting with a particular data system; or they will be asked to generate their own scenarios. They will also be provided resources that they can consult. Through a series of guided questions, participants will be asked to further detail their individual or individuals’ experiences with data systems, potential problems or opportunities these experiences present, and hypothetical solutions or challenges that the individual or individuals might engage.

Participants will leave with a more thorough analysis around the relationship and impact open data has on poor and working class communities in urban centers, more specifically Detroit. Participants will also have the opportunity to continue contributing to the pop-ed efforts of the O.D.B. Project and walk away with the basics of how to start a Data Discotech in their own cities.

Format Workshop
Target Groups Journalists, Software Developers, Advocacy/Policy Professional, Communications Professionals, Front Line Activists, People of Color, People Working to Highlight Abuse by Law Enforcement
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Novice
Language English


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