Article on data transparency and environmental activism

figure 2

Map showing deforestation patterns, main roads, and protected areas in the Amazon. Source: IBAMA, PRODES/INPE, and IBGE 2010

Yesterday my paper with Prof. Raoni Rajao (UFMG, Brazil) was published at the Journal for Social Movement Studies. The article examines the relation between data transparency and environmental activism in the Amazon rainforest. For this purpose, we analyze the history of PRODES and DETER, two satellite-based monitoring systems developed by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE). We discuss its role in environmental activism and the formulation of policy toward the Amazon over the last three decades. Based on this analysis, we argue that the level of aggregation (e.g. regional figures vs. individual events) and temporality (e.g. yearly consolidations vs. near real-time releases) of open data configure different ways of performing environmental activism. Aggregated figures tend to have wider policy significance due to their simplicity and scale, yet allow very little room for reinterpretation, contribution from environmental activists, and direct use in policy implementation. Disaggregated data, while allowing more forms of (unexpected) reinterpretations and additions via the overlay of different data-sets, also require the intervention of environmental activists and other info-mediators in order to acquire meaning for the broader public. Similarly, while consolidated data-sets have the advantage of allowing more time for the creation of higher quality data, they are often published at a point in the policy-making cycle in which the negative effects of current choices are irreversible. At the same time, while more frequent data releases may lead to more responsive policies, they also place governmental agencies in a more vulnerable position since near real-time data are more prone to contain errors. Based on these considerations we conclude that monitoring data do not simply represent deforestation in the Amazon. Instead, different publics and data configurations (i.e. spatial and temporal aggregation levels) produce different objects (e.g. a threatened Amazon, a successful policy) and subjects (e.g. knowledgeable environmental activists, an unresponsive government).

You may find the full article here.

The research was supported by the University of Bremen and the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI).

Themenessay zu Digitalisierung und Gesellschaft

Vorige Woche ist mein Themenessay zu „Digitalisierung und Gesellschaft“  in der Soziologischen Revue erschienen. Im Themenessay gehe ich auf die grundlegenden Herausforderungen der Erforschung dieses Phänomens ein – einer Soziologie des Digitalen. Hierzu habe ich vier neuere Publikationen  in diesem Themenfeld besprochen, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede in der wissenschaftlichen Debatte herausgearbeitet (siehe unten).

Inhaltlich argumentiere ich, dass die zunehmende Digitalisierung in dreifacher Hinsicht relevant und interessant ist: (1) als Forschungsobjekt – die digitale Gesellschaft, (2) durch die Entwicklung neuer Forschungsmethoden – digitale Methoden und (3) durch neue Plattformen für die Kommunikation von sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschungsergebnissen (siehe auch Marres, 2017).

Eine wichtige Aufgabe einer kritischen Soziologie des Digitalen ist es aufzudecken, wie sich Gesellschaft durch Digitalisierung verändert. Alle vorgestellten Bücher demonstrieren die Relevanz einer Soziologie des Digitalen, die verschiedenste Disziplinen zusammenbringt und stark empirisch ausgerichtet ist, denn traditionelle soziologische Fragen stellen sich im Verlauf des digitalen Transformationsprozesses neu.

Im Themenessay werden folgende Bücher besprochen:

Jessie Daniels / Karen Gregory / Tressie McMillan Cottom (Eds.), Digital Sociologies. Bristol, UK: Policy Press 2017.

Noortje Marres, Digital Sociology. The Reinvention of Social Research. Malden, MA: Polity 2017.

Roberto Simanowski, Facebook-Gesellschaft. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2016.

Florian Süssenguth (Hrsg.), Die Gesellschaft der Daten. Über die digitale Transformation der sozialen Ordnung. Bielefeld: transcript 2015.

Interim Study on Co-creation Practices

Since my last post, we have had a busy time with our co-creators in MobileAge to not only co-design the map-based application for Bremen’s district Osterholz but to also co-creation, validate and integrate relevant data. Our participants received their own tablets for the duration of 8 weeks and actively complemented the efforts of other stakeholders in the district. We will soon launch the official app (usability tests and evaluation are still to be done).

We have also submitted the interim study of our co-creation activities in Bremen and South Lakeland: D1.2 FINAL Interim study on co-creation practices.



European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium

DSC_0324 (2) The 31st EGOS Colloquium took place in Athens from 2nd to 4th of July 2015. I participated in the sub-theme 45: Materiality, Human Agency and Practice which was convened by Eleni Lamprou (ALBA), Nathalie Mitev (King’s College London) and Lucas Introna (Lancaster). The participants included scholars from design research, IS, anthropology, technology studies, gender studies and many more; and covered topics ranging from digital book publishing to 3D printing to fertility treatments. I had the great opportunity to meet a number of scholars whose new work I greatly enjoyed hearing about, in particular Wanda Orlikowski, Susan Scott, Matthew Jones, Séamas Kelly, François-Xavier de Vaujany, Leon Hempel and Roser Pujadas. Overall it was an inspiring track and conversation that demonstrated the width of current research on materiality and practice-based approaches.

I presented a paper entitled: Considering the practicing of sociomaterial research and its enactments. You may find the paper and presentation slides here. → full paperpresentation slides

White Paper on Citizen Science

I had the great opportunity to attend the Citizen Science conference, organised by the EU project Socientize in Brussels on 22nd September. The conference organisers managed to assemble a great variety of citizen science projects and intiatives as well as policy makers. There was an enthusiastic athmosphere about this emerging new field of Digital Science. Read more about it in the White Paper on Citizen Science compiled by Socientize.