Data Out of Place: Toxic Traces and the Politics of Recycling

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It has become increasingly common to talk about “digital traces”. The idea that we leak, drop and leave traces wherever we go has given rise to a culture of traceability, and this culture of traceability, I argue, is intimately entangled with a socio-economics of data disposability and recycling. While the culture of traceability has often been theorised in terms of, and in relation to, privacy, I offer another approach, framing digital traces instead as a question of waste. This perspective, I argue, allows us to connect to, extend and nuance existing discussions of digital traces. It shows us that data traces raise questions about not only how data capitalism tracks individual and multiple data behaviours, but also how it links to social and environmental toxicities in the form of abuse and environmental pollution, which follow gendered and colonial structures of violence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBig Data & Society
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Published online: 30. September 2019


  • Digital traces
  • Knowledge production
  • Big Data ecologies
  • Toxic data
  • Recycling
  • Waste

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