Thursday 14 September 2023

2023 Colloquium: Data Practices and Digital Social Worlds

Practices to collect, process, and communicate data have reconfigured sociological approaches to knowing and researching social life. Social researchers have analysed these reconfigurations as data-making practices, from the ethics of interacting with AI chatbots to the seductions of scraping social media data. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated accessing ‘the field’ from afar, with digital social research carried out remotely. How are these data practices continuing to make and transform digital social worlds?

Organised by the journal Big Data & Society together with the Department of Sociology and the Planetary Praxis research group at the University of Cambridge, this colloquium brings together scholars from across disciplines to reflect on and speculate about digitally mediated data collection practices. The four-part colloquium will host dialogues about which data practices contribute to understanding digital social worlds. Participants will discuss their choice of methods, what they elicited and/or obfuscated, the unexpected challenges and unpredictable opportunities that surfaced in the process and what they would have done differently.


All sessions are scheduled for 16:00 to 18:00 (BST/GMT) / 11:00 to 13:00 (NY, EST). The sessions will not be recorded.

Session 1. Data Infrastructures & Labour

October 19th, 2023

Chairs: El No, Natalia Orrego

In this session, we focus on important yet often less visible types of data work involved in the production of technology. We explore various data-making practices, especially performed through/for platforms and infrastructures, and the politics in organising data work across multiple roles, from microworkers to machine-learning researchers.


  • Arturo Arriagada Ilabaca (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile)
  • Dawn Nafus (Intel, US) 
  • Paola Tubaro (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)
  • Jing Zeng (Utrecht University, Netherlands, BD&S CE) 

Session 2. Data & Social Justice

October 26th, 2023

Chairs: Saide Mobayed & Anastassija Kostan

This panel will explore how data practices can either perpetuate or challenge systemic inequalities and how responsible data stewardship can be a powerful tool for promoting social justice. Topics include data feminism, data for algorithm accountability, indigenous data practices, and climate data justice.


  • Alejandro Mayoral-Baños (Indigenous Friends, Canada) 
  • Catherine D’Ignazio (Data + Feminism Lab, MIT, US)
  • Jocelyn Longdon, (University of Cambridge, UK)
  • Dan Calacci, The Workers' Algorithm Observatory (Princeton, US)

Session 3. Data Infrastructures & Cities

November 9th, 2023

Chairs: Michael McCanless, Jun Zhang

This panel will focus on how data makes cities legible. With particular attention to the various technologies and data flows that attempt to render urban life calculable, panellists work on mobility and property processes. 


  • Rachel Weber (University of Illinois, Chicago, US)
  • Julien Migozzi (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Erin McElroy (University of Washington, US)
  • Martin Tironi (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile)

Session 4. Data Citizenships & Governmentality 

November 21st, 2023
Chairs: Jun Zhang & Saide Mobayed

In this panel, we will discuss and critically reflect on the epistemologies of citizenship, digital relations, power dynamics, and governmentality in today's data-driven society. We will explore topics concerned with the politics of (big) data and the co-creation of social value enhanced (or not) by digital technologies. 

  • Evelyn Ruppert (Goldsmiths University, UK, BD&S Co-founder)
  • Ana Valdivia (University of Oxford, UK, BD&S CE)
  • Yu-Shan Tseng (Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, Finland)
  • Dan Bouk (Colgate University, US)