Politics of Data Reuse in Machine Learning Systems: Theorizing Reuse Entanglements

Nanna Bonde Thylstrup*, Kristian Bondo Hansen, Mikkel Flyverbom, Louise Amoore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Policy discussions and corporate strategies on machine learning are increasingly championing data reuse as a key element in digital transformations. These aspirations are often coupled with a focus on responsibility, ethics and transparency, as well as emergent forms of regulation that seek to set demands for corporate conduct and the protection of civic rights. And the Protective measures include methods of traceability and assessments of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ datasets and algorithms that are considered to be traceable, stable and contained. However, these ways of thinking about both technology and ethics obscure a fundamental issue, namely that machine learning systems entangle data, algorithms and more-thanhuman environments in ways that challenge a well-defined separation. This article investigates the fundamental fallacy of most data reuse strategies as well as their regulation and mitigation strategies that data can somehow be followed, contained and controlled in machine learning processes. Instead, the article argues that we need to understand the reuse of data as an inherently entangled phenomenon. To examine this tension between the discursive regimes and the realities of data reuse, we advance the notion of reuse entanglements as an analytical lens. The main contribution of the article is the conceptualization of reuse that places entanglements at its core and the articulation of its relevance using empirical illustrations. This is important, we argue, for our understanding of the nature of data and algorithms, for the practical uses of data and algorithms and our attitudes regarding ethics, responsibility and regulation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBig Data & Society
Issue number2 (July-December)
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Data reuse
  • Machine learning
  • Ethics
  • Entanglements
  • Datasets
  • Algorithms

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