Daniela van Geenen
Critical data practice(s) in everyday contexts making sense of sensors:
- Governing sensors (e.g. in ‘smart cities’)
- Citizen/participatory sensing projects
- Interfacing with sensors as knowledge technologies & designing ‚reflexive digital methods‘
Critical data studies, device studies, digital methods/methodologies, ethnomethodology, feminist epistemologies/technoscience, STS, technography
Sensors and the datafication of everyday settings and situations through sensor technologies gain increasing relevance in contemporary societies. Mobile devices such as smartphones, the development of autonomous driving and the implementation of smart homes thrive on them. Moreover, there is a growing social, economic, and political interest in the sensor- based organization, commodification, and governance of everyday life and public spaces. For instance, in the form of so-called ‘smart cities’ constituted by inbuilt electronic sensoria and machine-learning techniques in order to monitor and analyze real-time data informing on the environment and its constitution in relation to the behavior of its inhabitants. In addition to legal and ethical issues related to privacy, such ‘living labs’ sparked debates on the ‘right to the smart city’ (e.g. Cardullo et al., 2019). That is, existing and required opportunities to engage with, and make sense of, the epistemological implications of sensor technologies for everyday life.
Sensor-based ‘big data’ and the digital devices and computing infrastructures that facilitate them bring about opaque conditions under which the data are generated and processed, filtered, categorized, and analyzed (e.g. Bechmann and Bowker, 2019; Dieter et al., 2019). That is to say, the ways in which knowledge is produced through sensor technologies are not easily or necessarily accessible. Due to their technological capacity of operating with high accuracy in (semi-)autonomously functioning computational networks and based on standardized procedures and quantitative principles, sensor technologies are accredited with certain epistemic authority (Thielmann, 2019 in reference to Tickoo and Iyer, 2017). Moreover, the data produced through sensors in urban environments inform democratic policy- and decision-making processes and are therefore acted upon (e.g. Gabrys, 2014). As Evelyn Ruppert (2015) argues, such data that inform about public matters such as environmental issues are “generative of data publics”. They pose the question to which extent it is possible to engage, interfere, and in doing so, interface with the ways in which such knowledge is produced and acted upon (De Lange, 2019). Thus, sensor technologies and their role in everyday data practices call for new approaches to study, understand, and reflect on their epistemological implications, and therefore, social significance and consequences.
This PhD project responds to calls for studying and understanding sensors and sensing practices in situated ways, taking into consideration their intertwined social and technical dimensions and qualities (Gabrys, 2019; Thielmann, 2019). In particular, this study is concerned with sensors as everyday knowledge technologies inquiring into and ‘making sense’ of the data practices that they shape and are shaped by, and reflecting on their methodological implications (e.g. Thielmann, 2019 in reference to Garfinkel, 1967). I understand this research project as an empirical contribution to previous work in the areas of ‘critical data studies’ (e.g. Iliadis and Russo, 2016; Rettberg, 2020), ‘digital methods’ (Rogers, 2013; Gerlitz et al., 2019), and ‘device studies’ (Law and Ruppert, 2013; Nold, 2017). In that, the project makes an effort to bridge gaps between investigative work collecting and using sensor data, the development of scientific standards in and technical work on sensor-based applications, and the needed understanding of and reflection on the data practices and infrastructures that these technologies thrive on and bring about.
In order to operationalize this objective, the research project aims at combining two kinds of empirical engagement with sensor-enabled data practices: Firstly, the project features ethnographic research inquiring into areas in which sensors are used to build and help maintaining sociotechnical infrastructures for the purpose of measuring and monitoring public matters. In this context, the project will follow and promote a praxeological approach to sensor-enabled data practices. That is, the project aims at an understanding of these everyday ‘methods’ by means of exploring the descriptions and conventions of the actors, which are the members of the specific sites of study, on their own terms (cf. Garfinkel, 1967). Secondly, the research project combines this ethnomethodological point of departure with experiments with digital, and thus, medium-specific methods for understanding and reflecting on sensor data and the digital devices through which these data are produced and processed. In this second part, I enter into the question what ‘digital methodology’ (Marres, 2017 in Van Es et al., 2018) in relation to sensor-enabled data practices implies. In both parts of this study the notion of ‘critical data practice’ will function as central and connective concept that I will flesh out drawing on, (re)appropriating, and (re)defining Philip Agre’s (1997) concept of ‘critical technical practice’. Drawing from Agre, I will develop the lens of critical data practice (CDP) in relation to practical work with and on sensor data and the devices that generate them. According to Agre, such practical work needs to be accompanied by continuous and process-relational reflection on the ways in which both the data and the devices are approached, handled, understood, made public, and put to specific use by diverse relevant actors.
How is ‘critical data practice’ defined and developed in relation to everyday sensor-enabled knowledge technologies exploring and making sense of the sociotechnical infrastructures they thrive on and bring about?
- SQ1: Based on an extensive literature review and an inventory of existing and projects, what does ‘critical data practice’ consist of and how is it described specifically in light of sensor-enabled knowledge technologies?
- SQ2: How can ‘critical data practice’ be (re)defined in practice, based on empirical explorations of everyday sensor-enabled epistemic settings and situations, related forms of citizenship and modes of governance?
- SQ3: How to design for interfacing with and accounting for sensor data and the devices that produce them developing ‘reflexive research tools’ that promote likewise technical and critical situational engagements and methodological reflection?
- 12 2018 – 11 2019 Affiliated researcher at the Datafied Society research platform (Utrecht University, Institute for Cultural Inquiry), amongst other projects working on the Gephi “Fieldnotes Plugin” , in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Lab (see publications)
- 11 2015 – 08 2018 Junior researcher at the Quality Journalism in Digital Transition research group (shortened: Journalism Lab), a.o. contributing to a funding application for the study of artificial intelligence and automation in journalistic research practices (SiaRAAK, NWO funding for applied research)
- 01 2014 – 08 2015 Junior researcher at the Utrecht Data School and later the Datafied Society research platform (both Utrecht University)
- 09 – 12 2013 MA student researcher at the Utrecht Data School, conducting research on behalf of the Rathenau Institute in The Hague (see here for their report in Dutch referencing our project).
Extracurricular and additional academic activities
- 27 – 31 01 2020 SMART Data Sprint 2020 (iNova Media Lab, Lisbon) hosting a project on “Method maps: accounting for and situating the work with digital tools”
- 10 2019 – 01 2020 Co-organization of the CRC “Data Ethnography” Lecture Series
- 04 – 08 06 2018 Lesbos writing seminar in preparation of the edited volume Data Visualization in Society: The Relationships between Graphs, Charts, Maps and Meanings, Feelings, Engagements (Engebretsen and Kennedy, expected April 2020; see publications)
- Digital Methods Summer School 2017 (University of Amsterdam), “Methods Maps: Visualising Automation” (Gerlitz et al., 2017)
- Digital Methods Winter School 2014 (University of Amsterdam), “Zwarte Piet: a Facebook/social media re-view of the 2013 debate” (Trilling et al., 2014)
- 07 – 09 2016, 12 2016 – 01 2017 Qualitative media analysis of newspapers in a political science study on the coverage of homosexuality and sex work in the Netherlands, on behalf of Dr. Eva-Maria Euchner, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, for her book Morality Politics in a Secular Age Strategic Parties and Divided Governments in Europe (Euchner, 2019)
- Burkhardt, M., Gerlitz, C., Hind, S., Lämmerhirt, D., Kaerlein, T., van Geenen, D., and A. Vollmar (Eds.; alphabetical order) (expected 2021). Interrogating Datafication: Towards a Praxeology of Data. Bielefeld: transcript.
- Van Geenen, D. (2020). Critical Affordance Analysis for Digital Methods: The Case of Gephi. In M. Burkhardt, M. Shnayien, and K. Grashöfer (Eds.), Explorations in Digital Cultures. Lüneburg: meson press. http://doi.org/10.14619/1716
- Van Geenen, D. and M. Wieringa. (2020). Approaching Data Visualizations as Interfaces: An Empirical Demonstration of How Data Are Imag(in)ed. In M. Engebretsen and H. Kennedy, (Eds.), Data Visualization in Society (Chapt. 9, pp. 141-156). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvzgb8c7.15
- Wieringa, M., van Geenen, D., van Es, K., and J. van Nuss. (2019). The Field Notes Plugin: Making Network Visualization in Gephi Accountable. In A. Daly, K. Devitt and M. Mann. Good Data. INC Theory on Demand. http://networkcultures.org/blog/publication/tod-29-good-data/.
Peer-reviewed journal articles
- Van Geenen, D., Gray, J., Venturini, T., Jacomy M., Meunier, A., and L. Bounegru (expected 2021). Staying with the trouble of networks: Situating network practices as contribution to critical data and algorithm studies. Pfeiffer, J. and K. Mayer (Eds), Frontiers in Big Data. Critical Data and Algorithm Studies. frontiersin.org.
- Wieringa, M., van Geenen, D., Schäfer, M.T., and L. Gorzeman. (2018). Political Topic-Communities and Their Framing Practices in the Dutch Twittersphere. An Empirical and Media-Critical Contribution to Understanding Ideological Homophily. Internet Policy Review 7(2). DOI: 10.14763/2018.2.793.
- Van Es, K., van Geenen, D., and T. Boeschoten. (2015). Re-imagining Television Audience Research: Tracing Viewing Patterns on Twitter. M/C Journal, Vol. 18, No 6. journal.media-culture.org.au.
Van Es, K., van Geenen, D., and T. Boeschoten. (2014). Mediating the Black Pete Discussion on Facebook: Slacktivism, flaming wars, and deliberation. First Monday, Vol. 19, No 12. firstmonday.org.
- Van Geenen, D., Schäfer, M. T., Boeschoten, T., Hekman, E., Bakker, P., and J. Moons. (2016, October 5-8). Mining One Week of Twitter. Mapping Networked Publics in the Dutch Twittersphere. Paper presented at AoIR 2016: The 17th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. Berlin, Germany: AoIR. Retrieved from spir.aoir.org.
- Garnett, E., Lämmerhirt, D., Nold, C, and D. van Geenen (alphabetical order) (forthcoming). Participatory sensing as public tests. Working Paper.
Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference 2016 (Berlin)
07 10 “Mining one week of Twitter. Tracing local networked publics in the Dutch Twittersphere”,
Daniela van Geenen, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Piet Bakker, Thomas Boeschoten, Erik Hekman & Jonas Moons
Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference 2017 (Tartu)
19 10 “Tracking ‘fake news’ on Twitter: An empirical and media critical contribution to nuancing the notion of the ‘filter bubble’”, Daniela van Geenen, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Maranke Wieringa, Thomas Boeschoten, Piet Bakker & Eric Hekman
ECREA 2016 (Prague)
12 11 “Tracing Local Networked Publics in the Dutch Twittersphere”, Daniela van Geenen, Piet Bakker, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Erik Hekman, Thomas Boeschoten & Jonas Moons
Data Publics 2017 (Lancaster)
02 04 „Filter bubbles or multifaceted and diverse audiences? Studying media practices of Dutch-speaking citizens on Twitter”, Daniela van Geenen, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Thomas Boeschoten, Piet Bakker, Erik Hekman
Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2016 (Amsterdam)
05 02 “Het Nederlandse Twitter-ecosysteem en het publieke debat”, Daniela van Geenen, Piet Bakker, Thomas Boeschoten, Erik Hekman, Jonas Moons & Mirko Tobias Schäfer
Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2017 (Tilburg)
27 01 “Een week in de Nederlandse Twittersfeer: Publieken, lokale elites en hun mediapraktijken”, Daniela van Geenen, Piet Bakker, Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Thomas Boeschoten & Erik Hekman
Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2018 (Gent)
08 02 “‘Lokaliteit’ in de transformatie van publieke sferen: een methodologie om lokale publieken en hun mediapraktijken op Twitter in beeld te brengen”, Daniela van Geenen, Maranke Wieringa, Mirko Tobias Schäfer & Piet Bakker
Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2019 (Nijmegen)
08 02 “Spaces in which People and Algorithms ‘Meet’: Automation in Journalistic Practice” (see for slides), Daniela van Geenen
Data Justice 2018 (Cardiff)
21 05 “Towards Good Data Practice: Making Network Visualisation in Gephi Accountable”, Daniela van Geenen, Maranke Wieringa & Karin van Es
Kings College London Lecture Series 2018
19 06 “The Field Notes Plugin: Making Network Visualization in Gephi Accountable”, Karin van Es, Daniela van Geenen & Maranke Wieringa
World Journalism Education Conference 2019 (Paris)
10 07 “Data visualization in j-schools: a hybrid learning environment”, Daniela van Geenen & Yael de Haan
Data Power Conference 2019 (Bremen)
12 09 “Approaching data visualisations as interfaces: An empirical demonstration of how data are imag(in)ed”, Daniela van Geenen & Maranke Wieringa
12 09 “‘Staying with the trouble’ of networks: challenges in accounting for situated network practices”, Daniela van Geenen, Jonathan Gray, Axel Meunier, Tommaso Venturini, Mathieu Jacomy & Liliana Bounegru (see for the recording)
- 26 10 2017 Talk at the Impakt Festival 2017 (Utrecht, “Post-Truth & Soft Power” panel) titled “The Soft Power of Data Visualizations: Problematising the non-neutral way in which data visualizations impact our daily lives and research”, Daniela van Geenen & Maranke Wieringa (see for the recording)
- 04 09 2014 Concluding talk at the “Visualise It!” event (Utrecht), synthesizing talks by Amanda Cox, Andy Kirk, Paul Blickle, Robin Houston, and the project leaders of Every Picture Tells a Story (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht)
- Utrecht University: Utrecht Summer School 2016, 2018 workshops on network visualization and analysis
- University of Applied Sciences Utrecht: Two successive practical lectures on data visualization in the postgraduate course Data Visualization & Infographics, Centrum voor Communicatie en Journalistiek, November 2015, April 2016, November 2016, and April 2017
- University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Communication and Journalism Department: Lecturer and coordinator Module Data Visualization & Infographics, September 2016 up to date
- University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Communication and Journalism Department: Lecturer Journalistic Research, Data Journalism and Storytelling, September 2017 up to date
University of Applied Sciences Zuyd, Communication and Multimedia Design:
Lecturer Data Visualization in Module Data Visualization & Infographics, February to April 2016 and 2017
Utrecht University, Media and Culture Department:
Lecturer Inleiding Nieuwe Media (Introduction to New Media), BA seminars, February to April 2018
Utrecht University, Media and Culture Department:
Junior teacher Digitale Data-analyse (Digital Data Analysis), BA lectures and seminars, November 2014 to January 2015
Utrecht University, Media and Culture Department:
Teaching assistant/junior teacher Utrecht Data School from February, 2014 to August, 2015 (a.o. Masterclass Data Journalism, February to April 2014)
Guest lectures and masterclasses
Masterclass “(Social) Network Analysis with Gephi”, in Practicum of the MA Media, Data & Society (Lecturer: Tim de Winkel), December 22, 2017
Masterclass “Digital Humanities and Methods”, in the GEMMA course Digital Humanities in Intersectional Research: Power, Discourses and Data Analysis (Lecturer: Magdalena Górska), February 17, 2017
Guest lecture on research of Facebook as a “space for participation”, as part of the BA course Participatiecultuur (Participatory Culture; Lecturer: Asher Boersma), March 16, 2015
University of Amsterdam:
Guest lecture „Data research is ‘fun’, but be aware of the ghost in the machine” in the Research Master methods course “Big Data and Automated Content analysis” (Lecturer: Damian Trilling), April 2, 2014
- 11 – 12 2015 Co-organization of an Open Data Seminar on “Stadsbeleving” (the experience of the city and ways of recording it) in Utrecht together with SETUP Media Lab (Tom van de Wetering and Danielle Arets) at the city hall (December 10, 2015)
- 09 2015 – 05 2016 Project Management Mr. Beam, Projection Art Mapping Studio
- 05 2014 – 08 2015 Project Management Utrecht Data School (Utrecht University)