Data Reflectivity: New Pathways in Bridging Datafication and User Studies

Special Issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

Guest editors: Martina Skrubbeltrang Mahnke (Roskilde University, Denmark), David Mathieu (Roskilde University, Denmark), Joëlle Swart (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) and Pille Pruulmann Vengerfeldt (Malmö University, Sweden).

Deadline for abstracts: 26 May 2023 / Expected date of print publication: June 2024.

Following more than a decade of work on the structural properties of datafication and platforms, more recent studies are focussing on how users decode, make sense, avoid or resist algorithmic data. These works have contributed to make the role of users visible and meaningful and show users’ reflective engagement with technology. Linking platform perspectives dealing with questions of power, accountability, and governance on a macro-level to users’ everyday engagement with digital technology represents a fruitful path when aiming to understand complex user-data relations. This special issue aims to connect datafication studies with lived user experiences, inviting scholars to think along and reflect on the concept of data reflectivity in their contributions.

We understand data reflectivity as a synthesizing concept signalling the dualism inherent in data: on the one hand, data reflect human users in specific (datafied) ways aiming to structure user experiences. On the other hand, users have their own ways of engaging in, circumventing, or even rebelling against these data reflections, employing reflective strategies to manipulate and shape data for their own purposes. We encourage submissions that provide theoretical, methodological or empirical venues for better understanding the data/user nexus in relation to media, platforms, infrastructures and algorithms (in particular recommendation systems), metrics and analytics.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptualisations of data reflectivity and the data/user nexus, the role of user reflectivity in the face of black boxing, obscurity, obfuscation, etc.
  • User practices of algorithmic engagement and resistance, their relation to algorithmic imaginaries and literacies, and their implications for understanding the data/user relationship
  • Theorizing the challenge of volatility: How to account for temporal variability of algorithmic systems in relation to users’ algorithmic literacy? In other words, how to deal with algorithms as moving targets?
  • New methodological venues for exploring the data/user relations, such as collecting “big” and “small” data, data donations, applying mixed methods in new ways etc.
  • Examining the link between platform design and agency, reflectivity and literacy
  • Empirical contributions engaging in questions such as: How reflective are users and what are the potentials and limitations of reflectivity for providing users with agency or literacy? What are users reflective or not reflective about in relation to data? What is the role of affective and tacit knowledge for data reflectivity?

Please send a max. 500-word abstract (excluding references) and a 150-word bio for each author to using “SI Convergence” in the subject line (latest 26 May 2023). Authors of accepted abstracts will be contacted in June and will be invited to participate in an online workshop in autumn, with full papers due by October 31st, 2023.