Lina Dencik spoke to us today (April 15) about how the welfare State is changing in response to datafication, and how the concept of data justice can help us to advance our understanding of the issues at hand. We include a selection of Lina’s slides below from her 15 minute presentation.
Many analyses of what happens within the realm of datafication revert immediately to highly ethicised questions around bias. Lina discussed how this collapses our possibility to critically interrogate what is happening in datafication because (for example) when algorithms racially profile people in inappropriate ways it is seen as a technical problem of bias that must be fixed – rather than a problem of the values of the people who built the algorithm. As an alternative to a focus on bias, Lina proposes that we think about data justice from a holistic perspective, thinking about the consequences for our economy and society, and move beyond looking at the technology as though it were static.
Lina also discussed the problem of data rentierism, whereby we must allow our data to be collected as a kind of ‘rent’ we pay for being able to continue to use services in the modern world. This forces us into a cycle of dependency on technical systems which can make it difficult for us to extract ourselves as time passes. Overall this talk was stimulating and engaging – and deals with an issue that only seems to become more pressing with time. Especially in the context of our contemporary moment where we are all dependent on datafied systems as we continue to work from home and socialise on Zoom.