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Towards an anthropology of data

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Towards an Anthropology of Data
Special issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (Vol. 27, Issue S!)
Edited by Rachel Douglas-Jones, Antonia Walford and Nick Seaver
April 2021, 179 pages

The world is talking ‘data’. The early cross?disciplinary, business?orientated hype around the potential of ‘big’ data, with its promises of unprecedented insight into social life, has given way. Data now motivates a sweep of dystopian visions, from rampant commodification to the invasion of privacy, political manipulation, and shadowy data doubles. Yet anthropologists have been cautious in taking data itself as their object, even as the social life of data practices becomes manifest in our ethnographies. In this introduction, we argue for an anthropology of data that is ethnographically specific and theoretically ambitious, putting forward a case for why anthropological engagements with the data moment might be not only politically important but also conceptually generative.

Introduction: Towards an anthropology of data
Rachel Douglas-Jones, Antonia Walford & Nick Seaver

Becoming data: biometric IDs and the individual in ‘Digital India’
Vijayanka Nair (San Diego State University, USA)

Everything lies in a space: cultural data and spatial reality
Nick Seaver (Tufts University, USA)

The data?cation of nature: data formations and new scales in natural history
Tahani Nadim (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin/Humboldt?Universität zu Berlin, Germany)

Future-proof: bunkered data centres and the selling of ultra-secure cloud storage
A.R.E. Taylor (University of Cambridge, UK)

From connection to contagion
Cori Hayden (University of California-Berkeley, USA)

Hacking anthropology
Hannah Knox (University College London, UK)

Data – ova – gene – data
Antonia Walford (University College London, UK)

Strategic translation: pollution, data, andIndigenous Traditional Knowledge
Sarah Blacker (York University, Canada)

Bodies of data: doubles, composites, and aggregates
Rachel Douglas-Jones (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Data forward: an afterword
Bill Maurer (University of California-Irvine, USA)