Evelyn Ruppert is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, the University of London, moving there in 2013 from her previous position as a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Research on Socio-cultural Change (CRESC), a collaboration between the Open University and the University of Manchester. Prior to academic life, she worked for 11 years as a professional planner and government policy advisor and consultant, and in her academic career has focused significantly on the social role of censuses. Evelyn is currently PI of an ERC funded project, People Europe: How data make a people (ARITHMUS; 2014-19). She is founding editor of a new Open Access SAGE journal, Big Data & Society: Critical Interdisciplinary Inquiries, launched in 2014; the author of The Moral Economy of Cities: Shaping Good Citizens (2006) and, with Engin Isin, of Being Digital Citizens (2015).
Where are data citizens?
If we increasingly know, experience and enact worlds through data then we need to understand who are the subjects of that data and the space of relations they occupy. The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) means phones, watches, dishwashers, fridges, cars, and many other devices are always already connected to the Internet and generating enormous volumes of data about movements, locations, activities, interests, encounters, and private and public relationships. It also means that conduct is being mediated through myriad arrangements and conventions of the Internet. What does this mean for how data subjects become data citizens? If through the act of making claims data subjects become citizens how do we understand the spaces of this becoming? Challenging a separation between ‘real’ space and ‘virtual’ space, I define cyberspace as a space of social struggles: a space of transactions and interactions between and among bodies acting through the Internet. How these struggles are part-and-parcel of the constitution of data is the critical framing that I address.