The data wars: protest is increasingly an affair of incommensurables


Session Title:

  • Data Visualisation

Presentation Title:

  • The data wars: protest is increasingly an affair of incommensurables




  • In a world in which all entities are seemingly subsumed into the flow of data – economics, the real, things, money, people – under the various exchanges of Big – Big Mining, Big Capital, Big Economics – the resistance of protest often goes unheeded – people failing to call to account or articulate their protest in the commensurable terms of data. Protesters might be big in numbers, and ideas, but can they ever match the numbers – the plain simple data of economics – on which Big Decisions are based? This provocation is about data-incommensurables in the protest game, where no matter how many online signatures, how many people in the street, the people will lose always to the lobbyists with their portfolios of data, and advantageous economic balance sheets. Big Mining it seems has the monopoly on water data, people data [how many new jobs created], production and profit. It is not in its interest to count the jobs and productivity lost as Big Mining buys up farms and ruins the water, the tourism, or raises rents. Local councils do not keep this data; all they can do is comment on various compliances, they might even protest with their constituents, but they have only energy and angst and are inevitably defeated because they cannot make a compelling case in data terms. Data costs money and technological access to reap, costs which billion dollar trans-national companies with billion dollar super profits can collate. The people, the protesters, the local councils, are data-poor, and need new wikis, new modes of data collection, in order to have a commensurate say when the Big Miners and Frackers put their proposals before State Government Ministers. This provocation is a call to data mapping, to match the Big Mining and Big Economics at their game.