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Consumer databases as practical accomplishments: the making of digital objects in three movements

Consumer databases as practical accomplishments: the making of digital objects in three movements This paper aims to reflect on some key issues linked to the production of digital objects in business settings. In doing so, it problematizes current social science scholarship, which emphasizes the analysis of digital data and analytics, and reinforces the magnitude of its consequences and ‘data power’. The paper proposes making three corrective ‘movements’ that might enrich our approaches to how databases and analytics are assembled in business settings. The first movement involves the problem of ethnographic access to data-making practices. We propose taking seriously the issue of fabricating an ethnographic encounter where the process of making digital objects is exposed. The second movement concerns the visibility and the type of politics taking place in data practices. We argue for the need to displace attention from data impacts and results to the myriad of mundane practices and devices through which these objects are assembled. The third movement we suggest requires a focus on examining error and failure as key aspects of the manufacturing of consumer databases. Each of these movements is illustrated by ethnographic vignettes from a 9-month ethnographic experiment that involved participating in the first stages of the manufacturing of an online financial retail company's consumer database. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Cultural Economy Taylor & Francis

Consumer databases as practical accomplishments: the making of digital objects in three movements

Journal of Cultural Economy , Volume 11 (3): 16 – May 4, 2018

Consumer databases as practical accomplishments: the making of digital objects in three movements

Journal of Cultural Economy , Volume 11 (3): 16 – May 4, 2018

Abstract

This paper aims to reflect on some key issues linked to the production of digital objects in business settings. In doing so, it problematizes current social science scholarship, which emphasizes the analysis of digital data and analytics, and reinforces the magnitude of its consequences and ‘data power’. The paper proposes making three corrective ‘movements’ that might enrich our approaches to how databases and analytics are assembled in business settings. The first movement involves the problem of ethnographic access to data-making practices. We propose taking seriously the issue of fabricating an ethnographic encounter where the process of making digital objects is exposed. The second movement concerns the visibility and the type of politics taking place in data practices. We argue for the need to displace attention from data impacts and results to the myriad of mundane practices and devices through which these objects are assembled. The third movement we suggest requires a focus on examining error and failure as key aspects of the manufacturing of consumer databases. Each of these movements is illustrated by ethnographic vignettes from a 9-month ethnographic experiment that involved participating in the first stages of the manufacturing of an online financial retail company's consumer database.

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References (60)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
ISSN
1753-0369
eISSN
1753-0350
DOI
10.1080/17530350.2018.1435421
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to reflect on some key issues linked to the production of digital objects in business settings. In doing so, it problematizes current social science scholarship, which emphasizes the analysis of digital data and analytics, and reinforces the magnitude of its consequences and ‘data power’. The paper proposes making three corrective ‘movements’ that might enrich our approaches to how databases and analytics are assembled in business settings. The first movement involves the problem of ethnographic access to data-making practices. We propose taking seriously the issue of fabricating an ethnographic encounter where the process of making digital objects is exposed. The second movement concerns the visibility and the type of politics taking place in data practices. We argue for the need to displace attention from data impacts and results to the myriad of mundane practices and devices through which these objects are assembled. The third movement we suggest requires a focus on examining error and failure as key aspects of the manufacturing of consumer databases. Each of these movements is illustrated by ethnographic vignettes from a 9-month ethnographic experiment that involved participating in the first stages of the manufacturing of an online financial retail company's consumer database.

Journal

Journal of Cultural EconomyTaylor & Francis

Published: May 4, 2018

Keywords: Data practices; digital infrastructures; databases; consumers; data politics; valuation

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