Consumer databases as practical accomplishments

[Nuevo artículo de Tomás Ariztía en Journal of Cultural Economy, ‘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’

Tomas Ariztia

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.

KEYWORDS: Data practices, digital infrastructures, databases, consumers, data politics, valuation

https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2018.1435421

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