Monday, December 22, 2014

Data driven?

At this year's LRA conference I found myself repeatedly asking whether presenters felt that their video data was producing them, rather than the other way around. It probably sounded like someone trying to make a clever point, so I thought it might be worth trying to unpick what I was driving at. The thought first occurred to me a while back when it seemed as if researchers had 'discovered' mobility, as if it was something akin to a previously overlooked landmass - already there, but as yet unchartered. At that point I wondered whether that new interest in movement was simply a by-product of moving image technology. Were we simply seeing what our technology enabled us to see? Looking back then, was that earlier fascination with spoken interaction, turn-taking, transcripts and all the paraphernalia of oracy simply the result of affordable recording devices and magnetic tape? Thinking in this way might just exemplify how data produces us - and also at the same time how technologies of data capture enact exclusions. In our rush to study mobility do we ignore turn-taking, or indeed anything that falls outside the frame? You could take the argument to another level, as Barad does in Meeting the Universe Halfway, when she argues that 'technoscientific practices play a role in producing the very phenomena they set out to describe.' (207:2007). Or on an everyday level you could see how the way the iPhone camera gets used creates a new way of seeing the world. That wide angle lens, the heightened colour values, and also the simple ubiquity of the phone itself melds with our experience in new ways, creating radical departures from photography as it was. Put that into a slideshow (as above) and the way we participate in the world is changed.