Data Loss: Theorizing Digital Disappearance and Remains

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


A burgeoning literature on the politics of big data has emerged in the last decade, popularizing concepts such as ‘surveillance capitalism’, ‘algorithmic societies’, ‘datafication’ and ‘data-driven societies’. This literature is premised on the enormous production and retention of data, in a manner so pervasive that scholars have termed this the ‘Zettabyte Era’.

If the ability to gather and accumulate data is unprecedented, however, so is the scope of today’s data losses. Some of these losses are intentional and take the form of physical data destruction, planned obsolescence and closure of social media platforms. Others are caused by failures or accidents, e.g. fires and flooding. And many data losses also arise from mundane practices, often below the threshold of perception. To claim that digital societies ‘do not forget’ thus risks neglecting loss as an integral dynamic of any technological paradigm shift.

Mobilizing critical data studies and cultural theories of the archive this talk explores instances of data loss to argue that digital knowledge infrastructures are conditioned by, and generative of, the politics of data loss. Rather than conceptualizing loss as a purely negative event, however, the talk offers a theoretical framework for data loss as both productive and political.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2022
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventDigital Humanities Congress 2022 - University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Sept 202210 Sept 2022
Conference number: 5


ConferenceDigital Humanities Congress 2022
LocationUniversity of Sheffield
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

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