Manufacturing open data: the backroom work of data-driven transparency
The very ideas of an “information society” or a “data driven society” are associated with metaphors of fluidity, transparency and immateriality. These unquestionned terms hide the concrete conditions in which
The very ideas of an “information society” or a “data driven society” are associated with metaphors of fluidity, transparency and immateriality. These unquestionned terms hide the concrete conditions in which information and, in particular, data circulate. Who and what is involved in data production and circulation? Through what kinds of operations? What is the nature of such work in the various domains where data is now consider as a crucial commodity?
In this presentation, we will address these issues focusing on the case of Open Government Data. Since 2007, a political movement has emerged through a series of principles which notably consider public sector information as untapped reserves of raw data which should be made freely usable to create economic growth, increase transparency and transform relations between citizens and public services.
Building on an ethnographic enquiry in French public administrations, we will shed a light at the invisible work that open government data projects draw on. We will show that, far from being mechanily “freed”, government data has to be identified, extracted and transformed to become “raw” and open. The description of such sociotechnical work foregrounds the invisible costs of open data and invites to reflect on the specific case of health data as public authorities and private companies increasingly request their opening.
Jérôme Denis is an associate professor of sociology at Telecom ParisTech. Articulating a concern for writing practices and Sciences and Technology Studies, his research explores the production and the maintenance of different kinds of information infrastructures. His the co-founder of Scriptopolis, a collective scientific blog about writing practices (www.scriptopolis.fr/en)
Samuel Goëta is a PhD candidate in sociology in the human sciences department of Telecom ParisTech. With a degree in political sciences and in communication studies, his research deal mostly with the political aspects of digital technology, including net neutrality, open data, digital campaigning, and online communities. He is currently doing a thesis on open data which attempts to understand the hidden aspects of transparency by describing the invisible work to release data.
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