New Graduate Seminar on Data, Politics, and Power
This quarter I’ll be teaching a new graduate seminar at the University of Washington iSchool: Data, Politics, and Power – Critical and Ethical Perspectives on Big Data and Algorithms. It’s an incredible treat to not only teach a graduate class during my very first quarter as an Assistant Professor at UW, but to have the chance to build that class from scratch. You can find the syllabus here [PDF].
As is evident, the course rests heavily on Foucault’s later work on biopower and governmentality. It’s been my experience that iSchool graduate students, in particular, are regularly exposed to his earlier, archeological method but only briefly confront his genealogical work. While this makes sense given many of the “objects” of iSchool inquiry, I think spending time with late-70s Foucault is useful when confronting the critical and ethical challenges posed by so-called “big data” (in the mythological sense) and its attendant tools, methods, and practices.
From there, I tried to build a journey out from earlier, analog examples (censuses and passports, for example) through the challenges of digitization. The intention here is to help students start identifying both the continuities and breaks between past and present that might be most useful for their own academic trajectories. As a result, the reading list is hardly exhaustive – but I did try to represent a range of racial, gendered, and disability-based perspectives. My hope is that this helps lay a solid foundation for students to be more attentive to the biopolitical processes and power relations that shape both their lives and the lives of those impacted by the technologies, institutions, or practices they hope to study further.
In short: I wanted to make particular kinds of political struggles with data visible so my students can see them going forward. If you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how I might tweak or rethink parts of this course, please do let me know!
28 Sep 2017 / Anna Lauren