Datastructuring: Organizing and Curating Digital Traces into Action

Mikkel Flyverbom, John Murray

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Abstract

Digital transformations and processes of “datafication” fundamentally reshape how information is produced, circulated and given meaning. In this article, we provide a concept of “datastructuring” which seeks to capture this reshaping as both a product of and productive of social activity. To do this we focus on (1) how new forms of social action map onto and are enabled by technological changes related to datafication, and (2) how new forms of datafied social action constitute a form of knowledge production which becomes embedded in technologies themselves. We illustrate the potential of the datastructuring concept with empirical examples which also serve to highlight some new avenues for research and some empirical questions to explore further. We suggest a focus on datastructuring can ignite scholarly debates across disciplines that may share an interest in the technological configurations, sorting activities, and other socio-material forces that shape digital spaces, but which are rarely brought together. Such cross-disciplinary conceptualizations may give more attention to how information is structured and organized, becomes “algorithmically recognizable”, and emerges as (in)visible in digital, datafied spaces. Such a concept, we suggest, may help us better understand the novel ways in which “backstage datawork” and “data sorting processes” gain traction in political interventions, commercial processes, and social ordering.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBig Data & Society
Volume5
Issue number2
Number of pages12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Datafication
  • Infrastructures
  • Platforms
  • Knowledge production
  • Content moderation
  • Social ordering

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