How is data work organized?

•August 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

DOWNLOAD HERE — Work of Data Literature Review

As part of the Work of Data project here at Intel, Ian Lowrie had a look at what the literature says about the social organization of data work–not just data science, but full systems that collect and parse data on an ongoing basis (think, Internet of Things or self-driving cars.) There’s a heady mix of organizational factors, professional socialization, regulation, and beliefs about software production methods and systems architecture. Perhaps the most surprising thing is just how rare it is that folks working in these arenas think of themselves as data scientists! We weren’t that interested in social media data systems, or business informatics, so maybe that explains it.

Next post is a visualization of Lowrie’s working paper. Stay tuned!

What is Data Sense?

•January 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Better explained in video than words…

Data Literacy and Why it Matters

•January 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Also found this video, which records my opening remarks for Quantified Health Public Health Symposium. Embarrassingly, I seem to be wearing the exact same sweater as the Tracking Food talk (perhaps it’s my talk-giving sweater? My neutral, it’s sort of dressy but still on the West Coast sweater?)

Perhaps more importantly, here I’m trying to think through what “data literacy” might mean, and the kind of trouble we might find ourselves in if we presume it to be straightforward STEM-as-usual. I argued that a widespread data literacy will–and should–make it possible for more people to ask the kinds of questions that make experts uncomfortable, and that getting good at being uncomfortable is perhaps the best thing we “experts” can do to increase access to data.

Tracking Food

•January 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve only just discovered that QS has been helpfully uploading videos onto Vimeo. I found one where I  talk about the participant part of participant observation (I’ve been doing research on Quantified Self).  I tried to reflect on my own food tracking practices through the lens of anthropology. Although I don’t remember saying so explicitly, I use the work of Helen Verran and Jane Guyer to unpack how these numbers are generating meaning, beyond the obvious “is it factually true or not.”

Mapping Data Access

•June 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Here’s some work I did with Robin Barooah and Quantified Self Labs to explore what it is the public needs to know about how data gets shipped around between various services and devices.

After doing some initial prototyping of mapping points of data access, we asked folks to draw a picture of where they thought their data actually went, or could go. We learned a ton about what their actual concerns were, which, it turned out, went well beyond the usual surveillance issues.


Data Stories

•June 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A while ago, my friend Laura Watts and I produced a short work of creative non-fiction. Laura is both an academic and a poet– a combination I find deeply admirable.  We worked together with artist and poet Alistair Peebles, and print artists Rachel Barron and Nathan Clydesdale to weave the words together with images in a more intensive way.  We took creative license with the notion of a map, and made a series of ethnographic/visual moments concerning the physical and social realities of data.



An excerpt:

‘Big Data’ rises and accumulates today from so much of our activity, off and online, that our lives seem almost suffused by ‘The Cloud’. But perhaps data might be otherwise? In this collection, Laura Watts and Dawn Nafus, two ethnographers, bring together stories from different data sites: from the marine energy industry, and from the Quantified Self movement. These Data Stories speak, not of clouds, but of transformations: in things, in energy, and in experience.


These are small booklets, handcrafted in Scotland, which you can order online. If you have any trouble I still have a few left.

Making Progress…

•June 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A short video about what I’ve been up to. If you are interested in what we are building you can sign up at