Playing with data and its consequences

Stefania Milan and I have just published a new article at First Monday about the consequences of “playing with data” for activists. Check it out.


The fundamental paradigm shift brought about by datafication alters how people participate as citizens on a daily basis. “Big data” has come to constitute a new terrain of engagement, which brings organized collective action, communicative practices and data infrastructure into a fruitful dialogue. While scholarship is progressively acknowledging the emergence of bottom-up data practices, to date no research has explored the influence of these practices on the activists themselves. Leveraging the disciplines of critical data and social movement studies, this paper explores “proactive data activism”, using, producing and/or appropriating data for social change, and examines its biographical, political, tactical and epistemological consequences. Approaching engagement with data as practice, this study focuses on the social contexts in which data are produced, consumed and circulated, and analyzes how tactics, skills and emotions of individuals evolve in interplay with data. Through content and co-occurrence analysis of semi-structured practitioner interviews (N=20), the article shows how the employment of data and data infrastructure in activism fundamentally transforms the way activists go about changing the world.

New article on #journalism, #comics, #data_activism and walks around a Barcelona in crisis

The process of hybridization has pervaded all fields of human communication; journalism and activism are no exceptions. An example is the graphic project Los vagabundos de la chatarra, an editorial undertaking that comprises observations, drawings, data, a map, a video and accounts of the people who gathered and sold scrap metal for a living on the edges of Barcelona during the economic crisis that started in 2007.
This new article –published by the Catalan Journal of Communication & Cultural Studies (CJCS)– explores Los vagabundos de la chatarra from the point of view of journalism studies, cómics and graphic novels and activism.
Figure 1
Los vagabundos de la chatarra is conducted and communicated in an extremely hybrid manner: it visualizes data on a map, it strives for social change, it is journalistic and it has a comic design face.
Relying on media literature and critical data studies, discourse analysis and qualitative interviewing, our article examines the multifaceted shapes that activism and journalism are taking in complex times and explores the potential for subversion that such formats offer. The findings suggest that activists and journalists around the world are embarking on unapologetic hybridization, crossing lines between journalism, campaigning and art.
Figure 2

The cover of my new book “Data activism and social change”

This book efficiently contributes to our understanding of the interplay between data, technology and communicative practice on the one hand, and democratic participation on the other. It addresses the emergence of proactive data activism, a new sociotechnical phenomenon in the field of action that arises as a reaction to massive datafication, and makes affirmative use of data for advocacy and social change. By blending empirical observation and in-depth qualitative interviews, Gutiérrez brings to the fore a debate about the social uses of the data infrastructure and examines precisely how people employ it, in combination with other technologies, to collaborate and act for social change.

New article! Maputopias: Cartographies of Communication, Coordination and Action — The cases of Ushahidi and InfoAmazonia

Get the whole article here: Maputopias GeoJournal

Maps have been established as objects bestowed with knowledge, power and impact. In the hands of people, maps have been a form of political counter-power. The emergence of digital cartography, mobile media, data crowdsourcing platforms and geographic information systems strengthens the maps’ muscle and coincides with a growing interest in crisis and activist mapping, a practice that blends the capabilities of the geoweb with humanitarian assistance and campaigning. Based on empirical observation, case studies and interviews, this article analyses the emergence of digital cartography as a new paradigm in activism and humanitarianism by examining how two platforms –Ushahidi and InfoAmazonia— use maps. Ushahidi was created in 2008 in Kenya, marking the beginning of geoactivism, which employs digital cartography and often crowdsourced data to provide alternative narratives and spaces for communication and action. InfoAmazonia –dedicated to environmental issues and human rights in the Amazon region— was created in 2012. Since then, other geoactivist initiatives proliferated, presenting three different outcomes in the shape of a paradigm shift, several disruptions and criticism. This study examines these consequences, scrutinising how humanitarianism and activism –as fields of power and knowledge— are being reconfigured by new cartographic practices.

Keywords: geoactivism, digital humanitarianism, crisis mapping, critical cartography, data activism, activist mapping

Publicado libro sobre tecnopolítica con capítulo de Stefania Milan y Miren Gutiérrez

IMG_20171220_144330Infrastructuring in the South: An interview with digital humanitarian Luis Hernando Aguilar 

Editado por Francisco Sierra, catedrático de Teoría de la Comunicación de la Universidad de Sevilla (US), y Tommaso Gravante, de la Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM), Palgrave Macmillan acaba de publicar Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in Latin America, con un capítulo de Stefania Milan y Miren Gutiérrez, profesora de Comunicación de Deusto.

El libro aborda una reflexión crítica sobre los retos que se están produciendo en América Latina y el Caribe con las tecnologías digitales, y el presente proceso de redefinición de la democracia y del espacio público. El capítulo incluye un estudio del activismo de datos, centrado en InfoAmazonia, una organización que difunde, a través de cartografía crítica, narrativas alternativas basadas en datos ciudadanos, fotografía satelital y datos recabados a través de redes de sensores. InfoAmazonia ofrece información, mapas e investigaciones sobre la Amazonía desde los nueve países entre los que se reparte esta vulnerable región.

El libro se enmarca en el proyecto de I+D “Ciberactivismo, ciudadanía digital y nuevos movimientos urbanos”. Otros aportes vienen de investigadoras e investigadores punteros en la temática del Grupo de Trabajo del Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) “Tecnopolítica, Cultura Digital y Ciudadanía”, red internacional liderada por Francisco Sierra.

Los editores del libro señalaron que “América Latina y el Caribe se ha caracterizado por ser el escenario de luchas sociales en las que la dialéctica poder/ciudadanía y movimientos sociales se ha manifestado de múltiples modos… Desde hace algunos años, las nuevas tecnologías de la comunicación han provisto de armas tecnológico-comunicativas al nuevo activismo ciudadano y ha supuesto la irrupción de prácticas creativas de intervención social, utilizadas tanto por el poder instituido como por movimientos ciudadanos urbanos, indígenas, campesinos y estudiantiles por toda la región latinoamericana”.