The Subversion of Big Data. Cultures, Discourses and Practices of Big Data in Social Movements Contexts

17 & 18 November 2016

Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Palazzo Strozzi, Via degli Strozzi 1, Florence

DAY 1 – 17 November 2016




PANEL ONE – Activists’ data cultures in the understanding of big data

Chair: Alice Mattoni, Scuola Normale Superiore

For a long time now activists have managed different types of social data for civic purposes in the context of their mobilizations. In doing this, they developed different attitudes and beliefs towards data, including what citizens can do with them and to what extent they can be embedded into social movement activities. This panel looks at big data through the lenses of different activists’ data cultures in order to put the emergence of big data, and their integration within activists’ repertoires of contention, into an historical and cultural perspective.

Data cultures at the grassroots: Alternative epistemologies and the tech

Stefania Milan, University of Amsterdam

Data conflicts: The struggle over surveillance practices, interpretations and policy

Arne Hintz, University of Cardiff

How hackers engage with and counter surveillance assemblages

Sebastian Kubitschko, University of Bremen

Embracing Big Data. An analysis of art-activists’ discourses on contemporary data flows

Alberto Cossu, University of Milan




PANEL TWO – Social practices related to big data in activists’ contexts

Chair: Marco Deseriis, Northeastern University and Scuola Normale Superiore

Activists are not just passive producers of data when they mobilize. On the contrary, they often consciously engage in social practices that include the gathering, analyzing, and visualizing of big data in the context of their activist projects. This panel discusses such social practices related to the use of big data in the broad framework of social movements. The aim is to unveil the liberation potential of big data for citizens and their grassroots initiatives as well as the repressive capacities of big data when it comes to activists and their (revolutionary) projects.

Data in the Megacity: Jakarta’s urban poor struggle against evictions

Alessandra Renzi, Northeastern University (via Skype)

Beyond Volume, Velocity and Variety. Building “big” data from the scratch to fight online gender-based violence

Elena Pavan, Scuola Normale Superiore

Forensic devices and data activism

Lonneke van der Velden, University of Amsterdam

DAY 2 – 18 November 2016 


PANEL THREE – The discoursive construction of big data in activists’ strategies and tactics

Chair: Elena Pavan, Scuola Normale Superiore

Big data has so far been theories and understood as a tool of power. Scholars and researchers interested in data cultures have focused on issues such as digital surveillance, corporate exploitation of data flows or the quantification of the self. In this context little is known on how activists understand big data. How do activists discursively construct big data? How do these constructions intertwine with the way in which activists decide to include (or exclude) big data platforms and interfaces in their mobilizing strategies and tactics? The aim is to discuss and compare from a political and cultural perspective the many ways in which activists can frame – and then eventually use – big data and to take decisions, construct knowledge, and engage in protest.

From privacy to power – reshaping data debates in political activism

Lina Dencik, University of Cardiff

Anonymous as a Condividual Mode of Subjectivation that Escapes the Analytic of Big Data

Marco Deseriis, Northeastern University and Scuola Normale Superiore

Civic tech at mySociety: Promoting openness through structure

Stefan Baack, University of Groningen





Data Excess and the Politics of Technicity

Marc Cotè, Kings College London