The Social Life of Data (Prototyping Controversies)

Tobias Bornakke Jørgensen, Andreas Birkbak, Morten Krogh Petersen

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Despite the democratic ambitions underlying the practice of controversy mapping, external actors seldomly seem to take an interest in controversy maps, even though the maps are normally made publicly available on the web. Instead practitioners tend to move on to other things as soon as the results are out, which leaves it to the public to stumble upon the webpages and explore the results. This unspecified public, however, often seems to have more similarities to a void of non-engagement than a receptive social room. In this paper we take two related steps to counter the lack of public engagement with controversy maps. First, we try to distribute the production of issues and maps beyond the academy. Drawing on design thinking (e.g. Brown 2009 and Björgvisson, Ehn & Hillgren 2012), we ask what it might mean to co-produce data visualizations together with visitors of the website. Second, we abandon the claim that we have produced a map of the controversy. Rather we attempt to make available a potentially controversial data set, followed by an invitation for actors to raise new issues with it. In sum, we try to move from mapping controversies to prototyping controversies. In order to do so, we build a website that makes available a large relational data set on the Danish power elite (Ellersgaard et al. 2015) through an interactive data navigation tool. The tool allows visitors to explore a data set that is potentially controversial but difficult to navigate. Further, Google Analytics and a simple survey allows us to examine how visitors to the website were led to the site in the first place, how they made use of the data navigation tool and how customized maps from the webpage travelled into new and unpredictable arenas. The experiment thus explores the tension between publishing and making things public by generating clues about what it might take for controversy maps to travel beyond the classroom.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event2nd Nordic Science and Technology Studies (STS) Conference - AAU CHP, København, Denmark
Duration: 27 May 201529 May 2015
Conference number: 2


Conference2nd Nordic Science and Technology Studies (STS) Conference
LocationAAU CHP

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