The Social Life of Data symposium


We held our first research symposium on 28 April 2017. Sixteen papers were presented by our members, with sessions chaired by the co-leaders of the DD&SC, Professors Deborah Lupton, Deb Verhoeven and Sarah Pink.


Panel 1

9:30 Data-driven governance and resistance: the case of speed enforcement, Gavin J.D. Smith (ANU) & Pat O’Malley (ANU)

9:50 Big Data and the Visuality of Justice, Janet Chan (UNSW)

10:10 The politics of data storage in Singapore, Tanya Notley (UWS)

10:30 The Social Life of Performance Data: of audit trails and governing professionals, Paul Henman (UQ)

10:50 Panel Q & A

11:10 – 11:25 Morning Break

Panel 2

11:30 Locating responsibility for data, Lyria Bennett Moses (UNSW)

11:50 More than Social: The Social Life of Data and its more-than-human counterparts, Larissa Hjorth (RMIT), Ingrid Richardson (Murdoch University) and Yolande Strengers (RMIT)

12:10 Ethics, evidence and the smartphone in a digital world: challenges and solutions for managing data lifespan and access, Adrian G. Dyer, Jair E. Garcia, Detlef Rohr, Edgar Gomez Cruz, Marta Poblet Balcell (RMIT)

12:30 Conceptualising information fluency, Sora Park (UC)

12:50 Panel Q & A

13:10 – 13:55 Lunch Break

Panel 3

14:00 Photos should be made mandatory: risk and intimacy in social data cultures, Kath Albury (UNSW)

14:20 Vernacular Data Cultures in Mobile Dating and Hookup Apps, Jean Burgess (QUT)

14:40 Dating and Hook-up Apps and the Circumvention of Location, Rowan Wilken (RMIT)

13:00 Time to get tricky? The promises and pitfalls of data obfuscation, Neil Selwyn (MU) & Luci Pangrazio (DU)

15:20 Panel Q & A

15:40 – 15: 50 Afternoon Break

Panel 4

15:50 Shifting perspectives: Learning from or knowing with personal data? Vaike Fors (Halmstad University, Sweden)

16:10 From parents to nudges: reflections on smart authorities, Martin Berg (Malmö University, Sweden)

16:30 Data Publics: Extracting Social Value from Facebook Page Data, Anthony McCosker (SUT)

16:50 Big Data and the Future of Audience Research, Adrian Athique (UQ)

17:10 Panel Q & A

17:30 Close


Media release about our inaugural meeting


MEDIA RELEASE: October 7, 2016

Representatives from 15 Australian universities met in Melbourne on Tuesday October 4, for the inaugural meeting of the Digital Data and Society Consortium.

In addition to the consortium institutions, the meeting brought together social science, humanities, legal studies and creative arts leaders to strengthen academic and industry collaboration and explore opportunities for digital research.

The Consortium is ideally positioned to provide government, industry and other sector organizations with timely, expert advice and innovative thinking and insights on issues relating to Digital Data and Society in Australia

Researchers in the Consortium bring together world leading expertise in social, cultural, legal, security, privacy and human rights issues relating to digital data and platforms.

“The humanities, creative arts and social sciences are home to some of the most creative minds in digital data research,” said Deb Verhoeven, a leading digital humanities researcher at Deakin University and co-chair of the summit. “And yet they are frequently overlooked in STEM driven approaches to innovation and entrepreneurship in Australian government and business.”

Co-chair Deborah Lupton, an expert on digital sociology in the News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra, noted, “This Consortium meets the pressing need for researchers who can identify the potential and risks of big data. We look forward to productive meetings and advocacy opportunities to enable us to develop critical perspectives on digital data in Australia.”

“This Consortium enables us to develop new interdisciplinary insights into how to engage with the complex challenges and opportunities that digital data presents in contemporary society, business and policy” said Sarah Pink, co-chair and director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University.

The Data Ethnographies Lab

Launched in 2016, Data Ethnographies is a Lab of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC), at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. In 2016 Data Ethnographies workshops are being held in Australia, Denmark and Sweden, and have involved, to date leading scholars and researchers from Australia, UK, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Japan and Spain. We are launching a series of collective position papers and videos focused on issues relating to data and society  based on our workshops, which are available here

Data Ethnographies investigates the implications of the increasing ubiquity of data in everyday lives and worlds. We approach data from an ethnographic perspective to: develop insights into what people do with emergent types of everyday data which surround and are produced by our everyday activities; ask how people feel about how their data might be used by others; explore the implications of living in an environment where data is ‘everywhere’; examine how data makes a difference and leads to innovation in social, political and organisational change; and investigate the pressing question of how big data is impacting on and can add value to the worlds we live in.

The Data Ethnographies Lab approaches data in a unique way. Much existing debate is on how Big Data can be meaningfully engaged with, and what we might learn from it through computational data analytics. We bring to this a novel ethnographic perspective, which takes us deep into the real everyday contexts where data is produced and experienced.

For more information about Data Ethnographies contact Sarah Pink –


The thirteen Ps of big data

This Sociological Life

Big data are often described as being characterised by the ‘3 Vs’: volume (the large scale of the data); variety (the different forms of data sets that can now be gathered by digital devices and software); and velocity (the constant generation of these data). An online search of the ‘Vs’ of big data soon reveals that some commentators have augmented these Vs with the following: value (the opportunities offered by big data to generate insights); veracity/validity (the accuracy/truthfulness of big data); virality (the speed at which big data can circulate online); and viscosity (the resistances and frictions in the flow of big data) (see Uprichard, 2013 for a list of even more ‘Vs’).

These characterisations principally come from the worlds of data science and data analytics. From the perspective of critical data researchers, there are different ways in which big data can be described and conceptualised (see the further reading…

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Living Digital Data research program

This Sociological Life

People’s encounters and entanglements with the personal digital data that they generate is a new and compelling area of research interest in this age of the ascendancy of digital data. Members of the public are now called upon to engage with a variety of forms of information about themselves and to confront the complexities of how these details are used by others. Personal digital data assemblages are configured as human bodies, digital devices, code, data, time and space come together.

Personal digital data assemblages smartart Personal digital data assemblages

Over the past few years I have been researching the social aspects of personal digital data: how people understand and conceptualise these data, how they use their data, what people know about where their personal data go and how their data are used by second and third parties.I have analysed the metaphors that are used to describe digital data, the politics of digital data, the types…

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Why a Digital Data & Society Consortium?

The Digital Data & Society Consortium had its origins in a discussion on Facebook between Deborah Lupton, Sarah Pink and Deb Verhoeven. Deborah had been thinking for a while time about how researchers in Australia working on the sociocultural dimensions of digital data could come together and bounce their ideas off each other. She posted on Facebook about a conversation she had had that day with a member of the Australian Government Productivity Commission, which was about to initiate a public inquiry into data availability and use. Deb and Sarah responded, expressing their interest in starting a consortium on digital data and society as a first step towards developing links and collaborations between like-minded researchers. These initial online discussions were followed up by a meeting between the three of us at RMIT in May 2016 about our first steps.

This website is the result of these discussions. We three have been joined by a range of Australian scholars working on exciting projects related to digital data and society, plus some of our international research collaborators. The website offers information on the Consortium’s members, their projects and publications and events.