More Data, More People, More Conflicts

Center for Science and Innovation Studies Seminar

Who: Jean-Christophe Plantin
What:  More Data, More People, More Conflicts. The Power of Visualization Technologies in a Big Data Era
When: Tuesday January 27th from 4:10 – 5:30 PM
Where: 126 Voorhies
More info


There has been recently an increase in sources of digital data available, either coming from governmental “open data,” social media companies, or crowdsourced initiatives. While these “big data” are often characterized by their massive size, another important factor is the participation of new and potentially conflicting actors in collecting, processing, and disseminating these data. Using ethnographic methods and social network analysis, this talk will explore the political and epistemological tensions emerging from this larger participation. It will present two case studies where visualization technologies play a key role in the conflict between traditional stakeholders and newcomers for control over data. The first case study focuses on mapping technologies and citizen science: it will show how, after the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in March 11, 2011, activists used digital maps to challenge the control of experts and credentialed institutions in regards to radiation data, and to keep watch over the government’s crisis response and radiation measurements. The second case study uses the example of Twitter data to study big data in the humanities and social sciences. It will review how web-based data sources afford original disciplinary collaborations, but simultaneously create methodological tensions between research practices and corporate sources of data. The conclusion will present a future research agenda analyzing the social consequences of the production and circulation of online personal data.

Jean-Christophe Plantin is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan. His research investigates information systems and visualization technologies and their use for civic participation. He is the author of Participatory Mapping: New Data, New Cartography (Wiley, 2014).



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