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Panel Session 1: Theorising datavis

Subjectivation in the Visualization-Assemblage

Patricio Davila, OCAD University, Canada

Visualization as a prosthesis to apprehend phenomena that go beyond our sensory apparatus (e.g. city-wide social patterns or movement and presence on the sea) also involves a process by which things are drawn together. In other words, people and objects are translated into a network that represents them. It is therefore important to see visualization as both a way of representing our attachments and a form of attachment itself. This entails bridging the way that visualizations affect the users with the way that visualizations assemble their constituent components. It requires making contiguous visualization’s points of reception with its points of production. In order to do this, I will look at the ways that visualizations operate within networks and as assemblages. This will be done by discussing: the processes of bringing things and people together through Bruno Latour’s concepts of immutable mobiles and inscriptions; the dominant tropes that frame visualization, such as objectivity, minimalism, transparency, and coherency; the cognitive processes that visualization augments; the expressive and subjectivizing capacities of visualization; and the way visualization involves both representation and participation. To extend my use of Latour’s concepts I will explore how we can think of networks and assemblages in the production of subjectivity—specifically, visualization’s role in subjectification. Subjectification, or subjectivation, should be understood as the production of subjectivity through the entanglement in an assemblage. For this I am relying on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s work and Maurizio Lazzarato’s extension of their work on the production of subjectivity, assemblages of enunciation, and their theory of expression.

 

How Do Visualisations Mediate Data?

Annamaria Carusi, University of Sheffield

There is broad agreement in STS, as there is across many areas of media and communication theory, that artefacts like visualisations are not neutral representations or communications of data. Instead, they are often described as mediators, which seems to do more justice to their active role in shaping data practices. This presentation is a theoretical reflection on the notion of mediation. My aim is to bring STS theories and understandings of mediation into conversation with philosophical theories of mediation, drawing especially on two rather different philosophers: Charles S. Peirce the pragmatist, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty the phenomenologist. I believe the conversation will be a productive one, especially with respect to the connections between seeing and doing with data.

 

Local Authority Data Vizualisation: A Post Representational Approach

Adam Jenson, Northumbria University

This paper discusses how recent developments in cartography can be utilised to further the theoretical understanding of data visualization. By moving beyond the notion that they are simply representations of data and instead adopting a post-representational approach. We begin to challenge their ontological security and consider them as in a constant state of ‘becoming’ (Kitchin et al, 2014).

Understanding data visualization in a more processual manner allows a consideration of them as a complex series of exchanges and compromises between multiple actors. Each of which have a different set of skills, ideologies, goals and constraints in which they operate, creating a political economy of data visualization. This therefore presents a more holistic, conceptual understanding of production and consumption. Whilst simultaneously allowing a deeper critical inspection of the underlying forces of influence and helps to untangle, unpick and reveal power dynamics.

These ideas will be presented alongside case studies representative of English local authorities. Who have become under pressure to be transparent in their decision-making and to make their data public. In the UK this is happening in the context of austerity spending which has seen budgets greatly reduced. Illustrating the implications of producing and consuming data visualization in the public sector.

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