Saturday 6 April 2024

Guest Blog: Situating Data Relations in the Datafied Home

by Gaia Amadori and Giovanna Mascheroni 

Situating data relations in the datafied home: A methodological approach. Big Data & Society, 11(1). 

As data relations, namely relations and communicative practices that are mediated, sustained, and shaped by the digital technologies that extract data, are pervading practices and imaginaries of parenting and childhood, the challenge of empirically studying datafication becomes particularly prominent in this context.

To address the epistemological and methodological challenges in the study of datafication from an everyday life perspective, we propose to focus on mediatized relations as a proxy for data relations. More specifically, drawing upon a non-media-centric figurational approach, we argue for the value of combining mixed method constructivist grounded theory methodology with network methods so as to materialise the relationships through, about and around data that emerge in contemporary family life. We do this by focusing on 3 households from a group of 20 with at least 1 child aged 8 years or younger in Italy, who participated in a qualitative longitudinal study on the datafication of childhood and family life.

The study aims to delineate an innovative methodological approach to highlighting the situatedness of data practices and imaginaries and developing new research tools to enhance the phenomenological richness of data practices in the diverse digital–material contexts of family life. In particular, we show how different family figurations translate into different patterns of mediatized relations and, consequently, of data relations, depending on cultural coordinates, such as parenting and mediation styles, as well as data and digital media imaginaries. Furthermore, we suggest how network methods represent a suitable tool for materialising the mediatized relations structure, providing a set of metrics and visualizations that can foster researchers’ and participants’ reflexivity.

In addition, we believe this approach can be extended beyond the home to understand how data relations reconfigure different communicative figurations.