The emancipation of data; performative mapping for affect-based knowledge production

Submitted: 21-02-2016

Paper proposal for the Science + Technology By Other Means Conference, Barcelona (September 2016)

For the track: Critical Data Studies


The emancipation of data; performative mapping for affect-based knowledge production


Bueno de Mesquita, N. and Ghajarjazi, A.

Short Abstract

On any level of retrieval data are entangled with discrimination with which practices of data-mining and data visualisation run the risk of becoming pure effects. This paper presents a strategy to engage with the processuality of data and affect-based knowledge production through performative mapping.

Long Abstract

The term ‘raw’ in ‘raw data’ gives an illusion of neutrality. In spite of the etymological essence of the word, data are not neutrally ‘given’ but intertwined with multi-layered processes of abstraction. In these processes certain variables are chosen, sorted and classified to create data-sets. This paper presentation interrogates the fallacy of data neutrality by arguing that several levels of discrimination are at the core of creating data-sets that are made available for further use and manipulation. It is crucial to take into consideration how the algorithms, materiality and technicality of the medium define the very ontology of data. Without considering the operating medium, the practice of data mining and data visualisation run the risk of regarding data as elemental givens that can be readily translated into knowledge. Knowledge thus produced becomes only an effect of data. It is precisely this form of knowledge-effect that Jacques Ranciére criticises in The Emancipation of the Spectacle. This paper sets off from Ranciére’s skepticism of the ‘stultifying’ knowledge-effect and proposes an intervention in this data essentialist approach through what we designate here as performative mapping. Using case studies, it will be argued that mapping as a performative practice – as opposed to a framing one – has the capacity to conjure up and to actualise affect-based knowledge.