TiP Talk by Alison Cool: Sympathy for the data

The Technologies in Practice (TiP) research group at the ITU is happy to present the first speaker in our series of TiP Talks, Assistant Professor and cultural anthropologist, Alison Cool.

Alison Cool will visit us from University of Colorado, Boulder, to give a talk about law, ethics, and the imagined data subject in regards to how researchers form affective attachments to the data they work with. 

Read more about the talk.

As a point of departure for her talk, Alison Cool asks: Why do researchers keep data and why do they give it away? Cool’s research deals with the ethical and pragmatic work of protecting and sharing personal data, and for this talk she will shed light on this in the context of the legal efforts to standardize data protection practices (notably the GDPR)

Alison Cool.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Sweden, Alison Cool will describe how researchers form affective attachments to the data they work with. She will talk about how different forms of attachment to data foster a range of ethical sensibilities among researchers, and how this can endow research data with divergent and sometimes contradictory values. She will explore what shows itself as an elusive figure of the data subject, imagined by researchers. She argues how in various instantiations as “real people behind the data,” a Swedish national population, or a transnational public, imagined data subjects were ascribed intentions and desires, as signifiers of personhood that compelled researchers to respond.

Bio: 
Alison Cool is an assistant professor at University of Colorado Boulder. She is a cultural anthropologist with research interests in digital technologies, data ethics, and how people think about privacy and surveillance.

She conducts ethnographic fieldwork in Sweden exploring how experts, professionals, and activists go about the ethical and pragmatic work of protecting and sharing personal data.