All data are human: The human infrastructure of civic data

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Peer, Firaz Ahmed
DiSalvo, Carl
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This dissertation is grounded in issues related to the publicizing of data, which include issues of equitable access, interpretation and use. By engaging with scholarship from Human Computer Interaction and Science and Technology Studies, I contribute to a better understand of the local values and infrastructural arrangements that are required to build, use and maintain equitable data infrastructures that would enable marginalized communities to benefit from the publicizing of data through dashboards. I do this by taking a participatory design based anthropological approach in which I collaborate with local community leaders in order to foreground their needs and values when reimagining their civic data infrastructure. Doing so led me to identify the key elements of the human infrastructure that need to be considered when designing civic data infrastructures with resource constrained communities. Bringing these elements of the human infrastructure together and reflecting on how my role as a design researcher changed during the scope of this project, I argue that all data are human, and the way we do justice to them is by identifying and building relationships between the human elements of the civic data infrastructures that we are trying to build. This implies that we focus on identifying the human actors that are crucial to these civic data infrastructures, strengthen their working relationships and prioritize their values and needs by including them in our infrastructuring efforts. I hope this dissertation helps researchers and practitioners move beyond the mere publicizing of data as a strategy for data equity, but instead think about realigning the human elements of the underlying data infrastructure in order to empower communities.
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