Protected: The Mundane and the Sublime, the Radical and the Institutional: An Observation of Tensions at the Tamiment Library Archives

By rdaniell

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Missing the Point: Art Tourism and the New Wave of Art Fanatics

By armgar

Event: Untitled (The Drop), performance in Performa 17 by Barbara Kruger

Kruger Fans were disappointed—yes, I just labeled the new wave of followers and lovers of Barbara Kruger’s art Kruger Fans—they’ve written about it all over the internet. From Vogue to Artsy, these ‘art critics’ were not impressed with buying tickets to wait in a long, slow-moving line, just to buy “skater” fashions. But they did it anyway (Yotka, 2017).

Barbara Kruger is a Performance Artist Now?

The setting for the performance was a pop-up shop featuring a limited number of Volcom-brand tees and sweater, a special MetroCard, and even a skate deck, all printed with Kruger’s new work, for sale. Tickets were $5. Attendees became the actors, waiting outside to get their turn to make a cameo in the shop. No, really. The performance was us, standing in line, waiting to be let into the pop-up shop. For what? To make a purchase. That was it.

Barbara Kruger is a Non-Performance Artist Now

The focus of “The Drop” performance and her other installations became the resurfacing of Kruger’s drama with Supreme. The over-hyped, clothing brand relies on promoting the anti-authoritative, skater subculture, but it’s mainly just an exploitation of their aesthetic and caricature of their masculinity. Buyers consist of young males, who wait in long lines for expensive clothing. These particular events are known as ‘drops’. The brand is accused of having ripped off (read: stolen) Kruger’s typographical design treatments to come up with their brand identity. Later, they turned around and sued another brand for appropriating and using a version of their logo. The irony is unreal. If it’s not apparent, her partnership with Volcom is in direct, market competition with Supreme (Zuckerman, 2013).

On the surface, the pop-up was Barbara Kruger’s turn to give her middle finger to Supreme. She did this by not only ripping the brand’s style (and the idea of branding a MetroCard), but also by appropriating their sales strategies of building an air of great desire for limited-quantity items that promise a certain lifestyle. In a way, Barbara Kruger took back what is rightfully hers, and took a few other things along the way (Hodge, 2017).

Quickly criticized as anti-climatic, the internet dubbed “Untitled (The Drop)” a lack-luster non-performance. Meanwhile, Kruger’s other site-specific installations, especially “Untitled (Skate)” at Coleman Skatepark, garnered all sorts of attention and acceptance. I believe the reason that the skatepark was more successful, is because Barbara Kruger actually appropriated a whole skatepark, including the skaters. She served Kruger Fans an easy-to-digest performance: no surprises, provided the en vogue actors oozing the right aesthetic, and plastered war phrases and terms on a school bus. What a spectacle (Indrisek, 2017).

An Open Letter to the New Wave of Art Fanatics

You are the jerks that Barbara Kruger references in her work. You immediately succumbed to Kruger’s own version of brands’ manipulation tactics used to convince you to buy forgetful, useless products. “Untitled (The Drop)” is meant to be a reminder that we are capable of recognizing the audacity of certain groups’ actions, yet, are so quick to accept this information and move on with no action. We never really acknowledge the core of the problem, or attempt to protest and correct those situations. Instead, we become part of that problem. Even if you insist that you know it’s wrong or inappropriate, you still follow the masses (Williams, 2014).

Of course, those that study Kruger’s art are fully aware of the dualistic nature of her work. It intends to attack consumerism’s veil, while at the same time setting us up to succumb to the manipulative sales strategies, and enacting those consumerist-driven tendencies. They know her work is a call to action to apply self-reflective, critical thinking to the approaches we take in our daily lives (Canelo, 2016). We should get to know the institutions that we interact with, beyond the public-facing marketing campaigns. The underlying message here bears a reminder to go beyond consumption of information and no-action.

I urge the new wave of art tourists and Kruger Fans to not rely on art to teach them about culture. Culture is not a category defined by an institution. It does not come in a neat package, nor is it framed, hanging in some Chelsea studio in the gentrified New York . Culture spans the schools of thoughts. You can’t rely on any one institution to teach you everything you need to know about it.

Art is an industry maintained by consumerism—just like fashion and retail. Museums rely on event and ticket sales to promote agendas. Nevermind that you are unaware of this psychology. Your responsibility is to apply critical thinking and art theory to all works—which many bloggers, magazine editors, and art spectators miserably fail to do so more and more every day (Gottshalk, 2017).

Does it even matter that Barbara Kruger donated the money from sales to charity? Nobody wrote about that. Find the real problems that need solutions, or you might just miss the point.


Canelo, M. J. (2016). Art as social commentary: visual syntax and meaning in Barbara Kruger’s collages. Ways of seeing, ways of making seen, 70.

Gottschalk, M. (2017, December 08). Is Culture in the Americas in Trouble? Arts Leaders Say Yes. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from

Hodge, K. (2017, November 07). Barbara Kruger Takes Aim at Supreme With “The Drop” Pop-Up. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Indrisek, S. (2017, November 09). I Went to Barbara Kruger’s First-Ever Performance-and Left with a Skateboard. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Williams, P. (2013, May 04). Artist Barbara Kruger Responds to the Supreme Lawsuit. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Yotka, S. (2017, December 08). Was Barbara Kruger’s The Drop a Success? Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Zuckerman, E. (2013, May 02). Artist Barbara Kruger Is Not Cool with the ‘Totally Uncool Jokers’ at Supreme. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from


Barbara Kruger. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Barbara Kruger. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from

Observation: VR World NYC

By Elise Fu

This year, the largest virtual reality experience center in North America-VR World, landed in New York, right close to the Empire State Building. Visitor can try out 50 unique VR experiences in three floors, including gaming, film, art, music, etc. I went there a few weeks ago, experiencing some games and movies, and also observing players’ behaviors from a user experience standpoint.


Visitors are handed disposable eye masks for the purpose of hygiene when using public VR headsets. Each game has guide staff there to assist each experience, ensuring players have a full understanding of the equipment and experiences. Depending on the experience, each should last between 5-10 minutes. Most gaming bays have a big-screen TV where you can watch the action that’s happening in the headset, which makes it convenient to observe players’ behaviors and responses.

Experience types

There are different types of the VR experiences in the VR World, including gaming, film, art, and music, etc. Undoubtedly, gaming is the most popular one and usually needs to wait for playing.

All experiences require a headset and headphone. The simplest experiences are you can just sit and watch a film or documentary. The most common ones are those require controllers in hands and your body movements, such as “Raw Data” which lets you shoot droid with controllers, and “Tilt Brush” which lets you paint in virtual reality. Some special experiences normally need other equipment to interact with, such as steering wheel, “paraglider” and “spaceship”.

VR World Experiences

Children and adult have different experiences in VR games

Kids love VR game! During the 3-4 hours I was visiting, nearly half of the visitors are kids and they keep coming back to the game they found interesting. They are very excited and not stopped by the frustrations they came across. I can see a future where a place like this could become a “theme park” like Disneyland and Universal Studios.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 5.42.38 PM

One interesting thing I noticed is children and adults have different experiences in VR games, majorly because of the height and learning curve.

Even though in the same game, we can see the angle of view from kid and adult are different. Adult’s is higher and kid’s is lower because of the height, which actually influences their performance in games. The broader view you can see, the better you can handle the situation, such as the enemy in the game. To improve the experience for kids, designers may consider providing a “child mode” and lifting the angle of view for them.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 5.42.52 PM

Same for the experiences which require other equipment. In the below example, the kids were struggling with pressing the brake. He cannot sat comfortably when his foot touched the brake. When kids are playing games, they actually consider themselves “an adult/hero” who can beat everything, then why not help them remove the constraints?

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 5.43.11 PM

(Notice from VR World about age requirements: “VR World isn’t an all-ages attraction. In fact, children under age 7 aren’t admitted and certain games have age requirements, while a couple of others are geared toward those over 5-foot-2.”)

Female characters are missing

Having game characters controlled by players is very common in most games, especially in role-playing games. While if you play alone, you may not get the chance to see what you look like in the game. If you have teammates who play with you, then they can see you and potentially collaborate with you.

When I was playing the shooting game called “Raw Data” with one friend, even though I am a female, my friend still saw a man in the game which is not appropriate. It reminds me of a discussion I’ve been through about  “feminist theories of technology”, which mentioned how women’s needs are less met by new technologies because there are fewer women worked in the tech industry, either as designers or developers. The situation I came across in the game is just a good example for that. Virtual reality aims to make people feel real, but if women cannot behavior or been seen as a female, how can it be real?

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 5.46.48 PM

Emotional Impacts and Learning Curve

Another two things I think the UX designer of VR games should consider are the emotional impacts and learning curve.

People react differently to the games, some calm and some exciting. Fear and frustration are the two major negative emotions I found when observing other people play. Although negative emotions don’t mean negative impacts, because people could actually be excited about experiencing vivid feeling in the VR games, the emotional impacts are still something needs to be paid attention. VR is emotion amplifier because of the immersion, which can also lead to motion sickness when players lose control – I felt once when I was playing the racing game and suddenly lose the control of the steering wheel.

Giving control to players is very important for the user experience of VR game, which connects the second aspect – learning curve. Different people have different learning curves, and different games also have different learning curves. First-time players can act very differently while playing. Currently, every game in the VR World has guide staff there to explain the instructions before each one plays. Therefore, how to make the games intuitive and self-explanatory, and help players master the techniques quickly are good challenges to tackle. When players are comfortable with playing it without assistance, VR games or places like this should be much easier to scale up.


1. VR World NYC:

2. Wajcman, J. (2009) “Feminist theories of technology,” Cambridge Journal of Economics

3. Moor, J. H. (1985). “What is computer ethics?” Metaphilosophy 16(4): 266–275.

Behind the Scenes at the American Museum of Natural History

By Micaela Walker

Tour of the American Museum of Natural History’s Library and Special Collections

Micaela Walker

On November 17 I was lucky enough to attend a tour of the Library and Special Collects at the American Museum of Natural History which was arranged by Pratt ASIS&T chair Heather Hill.  The library is located on 2 floors of a building within a courtyard surrounded by other buildings.  The tour was given by the Senior Research Services Librarian, Mai Reitmeyer and she began by showing us on several archival drawings and photographs where, exactly, we were.

The AMNH is notoriously difficult to navigate and now I understand why; the museum is comprised of 28 buildings interconnected over an area covering 4 city blocks. There are buildings within buildings, buildings that can only be accessed via certain elevators to certain floors.  It is a labyrinth of knowledge.  The museum began in 1869 in a building within Central Park, which it quickly outgrew.  Calvert Vaux, one of the architects of Central Park, helped with the initial design of buildings on the site where the museum now stands. However, new buildings and facades were being added and redesigned until 1936.

Illustration of an early design plan for the AMNH

Illustration of an early design plan for the AMNH


Mid construction photo of the Museum in 1878

Mid construction photo of the Museum in 1878

Along with the library, which is in building #1, the museum has over 200 research scientists and curators working in earth and planetary science, astrophysics, paleontology, anthropology, zoology, invertebrates,  several vertibrate departments, one of the largest frozen tissue labs in the world, and a PhD program in comparative biology.  This is, of course, only behind the scenes workings – the exhibits and educational programs  that are open to the public are immense and expansive.

The physical library holds over 1 million photo items including prints, transparencies, and contact sheets organized in rows of filing cabinets and cataloged by area of study (ie geography).

Print (and bust) storage

Print (and bust) storage. The painting at the end was an illustration for the cover of a magazine AMNH used to print.


Librarian Mai Reitmeyer

Librarian Mai Reitmeyer


Digitizing their existing collections of prints, negatives, journals and field notes is an ongoing process that has to be done carefully by hand.  The library has this clever device to scan books, with two cameras and lights placed at the perfect angles to capture pages that are gently pressed into a glass V called the Book Eye scanner.

Book Eye Scanner

Book Eye Scanner


They use EAD as their encoding standard entered in XML when adding the scans and their metadata onto their digital archive, a low res version of which is then uploaded to their online archive, which currently has over 25,000 items in it’s database (

They have partnered with Internet Archive to offer images through their platform, which has nearly 4,000 AMNH scanned items (  Additionally, they have a Flickr photo stream that includes everything from collection items to student drawings from it’s education programs (

They are currently scanning field notebooks from various 19th and 20th century anthropologists and scientists, which will all be available to the public online.  Ms. Reitmeyer, as with nearly everyone I have met in the field since starting the MSLIS program, is more excited about the opportunities that all of this open access affords the museum to connect within it’s own community of scientists and researchers, and to the general public, than fearful of any possible copyright violations or misuse.

Next Ms. Reitmeyer took us to the rare book section which is accessible only with two staff members present to open the door. It looks like an old safety deposit vault only less grand and more utilitarian, with metal shelves surrounding a high central viewing table.


Mai holds up a rare and very large book in the rare book collection

Ms. Reitmeyer holds up a rare and very large book in the rare book collection


There are some seriously big books. And very old fragile ones. The textures of the various crinkly, thick papers feel more like pelt than pulp. Among the treasures she showed us were a page from Charles Darwin’s manuscripts, books from 1551 and 1558 complete with spines intact, books of outrageously whimsical hand colored fish by Louis Renard, a rare copperplate of an owl by Alexander Wilson, and John Gould lithographs.  Each item is encased in an archival box that is custom made by the conservation staff. All told we had a firsthand tour of 400 years of printing methods in about 20 minutes.

Page from Charles Darwin's manuscripts

Page from Charles Darwin’s manuscripts


Fish by Louis Renard

Fish by Louis Renard


Copperplate by Alexander Wilson

Copperplate by Alexander Wilson


Lithograph by John Gould

Lithograph by John Gould


On our way out we got a look at the negative storage lined up perfectly in identical archival boxes and an entire room of audio and film storage covering nearly every format created. The goal is to have everything digitized and, where possible, made available to the public.



We finished the tour as the museum was closing up so I went to say hello to the Titanosaur and catch a glimpse of some of the iconic (if ethically troublesome) animal dioramas. As I left the building I caught sight of this gem by Teddy Roosevelt, carved into the gargantuan wall above the check-in.  I took a picture because I thought my sons could use a bit of fortified, timeless advice like this, but actually I think we would all do well to follow it.



If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a map worth?

By Robin Miller


I have always been  intrigued by the power of maps and their ability to draw the viewer into the narrative they illustrate. It is understandable that I was thrilled when I learned the Information School at Pratt would be hosting a workshop entitled “Storytelling with Maps: Visualization as Narrative” presented by Jessie Braden from the Pratt Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI). After attending the workshop, I knew that I wanted to learn more about SAVI and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies, so I approached Jessie with a request to visit onsite at SAVI and she was kind enough to accept.

So, on a cold and blustery autumn morning, I travelled to Brooklyn and had the pleasure of spending three hours in the warm company of Jessie Braden, Case Wyse and their hardworking team at the Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative. Located in a newly redesigned subterranean space on the Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus, SAVI serves as a technical research and service center for the greater Pratt community as well as external clients, through the use of mapping, data and design. When I arrived I had the opportunity to speak one on one with Jessie Braden, SAVI Director and co-founder, who gave me an overview of what they do, who are their clients, and what type of technologies they use. In brief, the SAVI team provide GIS lab support to Pratt students and faculty on the Brooklyn campus and consulting services for non-profit and community-based organizations, often pro-bono. She also noted that they have been very fortunate and have never had to do any formal advertising. All of their contract work comes via word of mouth from previous clients. When I asked what a normal day looked like, she told me it would be roughly 30% consulting services, 30% support to the Pratt community, 30% administration of SAVI, and 10% research.


Additionally, she provided a detailed overview of their certificate program for professionals as well as information on upcoming workshops at SAVI. They also offer a GIS and design certificate program for professionals to incorporate data driven mapping and visualization tools into their problem solving toolbox. As I am very interested in GIS work, I was excited to learn about the different technologies employed by the SAVI team. Jessie was happy to provide a short list of the products they use most often which include:


  • Arch GIS – (heavy usage)
  • QGIS
  • Carto
  • Map box
  • Leaflet
  • Esri


  • Excel
  • R & Python
  • SQL (in ArchGIS)
  • Open Refine
  • Adobe

I was then invited to attend their Friday check-in meeting where the full team discuss current, upcoming, and possible future projects. During the meeting Jessie discussed several projects that are currently being reviewed including the Hudson River project for graphic design and data mapping services, pro bono work for Mixteca working with undocumented immigrants, and a vacancies project which looks at commercial vacancies in New York City. The meeting closed with a team review of their new business cards.


After the meeting, I was able to meet one on one with Case Wyse, who works as a Spatial Analyst. He gave me an overview of his work which he stated is more on the data analysis side, whereas Jessie does most of the visualization.

Additionally, I had time to speak with their 2017 GIS and Design Certificate Program Student Fellow and two of their graduate student assistants who were working in the lab. All three provide support to Pratt students and faculty who come to use the lab or need help incorporating GIS and mapping tools into their own work, as well as work on projects, as assigned by the SAVI team leaders.

“We are absolutely inundated with volumes of geospatial data,” says Mike Tischler, director of the US Geological Survey’s National Geospatial Program, “but with no means to effectively use it all.”1

In conclusion, SAVI is doing great work and if the folks at Wired and the US Geological Survey are to be believed then they are going to continue to be very busy. I am grateful to Jessie, Case and their team for taking the time to speak with me.

1 Enthoven, T. 2017. Mapping the Future: Cartography stages a Comeback. Wired.

Protected: A Meeting on UX with Logic Department

By asrp

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Critical Writing: Lucifer Effect in Social Media (Cyber homogenization & violence)

By wanyi

I never used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram before, one main reason is my friends almost do not have this social software, and are not being allowed to. Correspondingly, for the social interactive needs, we use Sina Blog and Wechat. But what I want to talk about is not network firewall. I want to bring about such a change today from such a new Internet that is not suited to this era. In particular, what kinds of problems and challenges have arisen from the various revolutionary changes brought about by Social Media and Social Network? And those things we are going to prepare, our society is ready (in a worldwide range)? Maybe we are not ready, are not we all imaginary about the constructive imagination in each of us all?

Network Information environment offers us a more transparent and malleable culture form. (Benkler, Y., 2006) Like every new thing is faced with the subversion or collapse of civilization, the social network changed us from information collection. When I was little, my parents and I gathered information and news from the newspaper, they are boring, with limitation, but in some perspective, trustful.(We may not see everything from it, but what we already saw is real.) Right now, since the explosion of social media, people have more channels to accept news and information, they think it’s great to get diversity views. However, depends on their social circle, people would like to interact with somebody who has the same values. In this pattern, information from social media with bias and subjective, sometimes even made up.

The more serious situation is when people get into reading, thinking, it causes discussion. A discussion in social media mostly plays around with the same circle called” The echo-chamber”. The echo-chamber effect is a condition arising in an online community where participants find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, thus reinforcing a certain sense of truth that resonates with their individual belief systems. Participants within online collaborative spaces will always act in human ways: that is, people will gravitate toward and will be more comfortable communicating with those who share their ideas, conceptions of the truth, cultures and communication styles.(McRae, P., 2010) People have the autonomy to choose the channels of information, but individual choices with emotions and positions still lead to the homogenization of information. More adapt to social identity and carve them into a “safe place”. (Baym, N. K., & Boyd., D, 2012) An importance sense of community with a network and overlapping social ties.

Even though this situation is not such serious apparently, it reminds me to think of Hannah Arendt’s talk about people began to lose the ability to judge independently, do things what themselves cannot believe. (Arendt, H., 2005) Same as The Lucifer Effect in real life, the digital interactive of homogeneous network environment could cause cyber violence in a potential damage.

In China, one typical cyber violence called: Human Flesh Search(HFS), is a type of collective online action aimed at finding with certain events and Publication of collective online actions related to the specifics of targeted individual facts. It related to tracking and posting may help to solve a crime or disclose someone who is allegedly engaged in the corrupt or unethical behavior. (Ong, 2012) But it’s more serious currently, the public can do almost anything in a cyber environment to support or discredit individuals, even beyond the moral threshold. Even more frightening is that they are real user groups, not bots.

For people who violate morality without breaking the law, society informality punishes them by the Internet. When we talk about punishment, there are roughly two kinds of sanctions in the civilized society now: One is to punish a criminal in the state system by law; The other type of punishment is social informality, which imposes a punishment through various social rules. What needs to aware is the second one’s rule is subjective and sometimes arbitrary. Because of the homogeneity of social media, people’s voices are actually self-protection or self-noble embodiment, they depend on social media as a board platform, do justice. However, what I am thinking is the fair of compensation. When public use Internet to spy on people’s privacy, nobody considers who should do it, who has the right to do that critic and at the same time, in what way. In the end, the result can be unexpected. Peter Steiner’s famous cartoon in The New Yorker in 1993 once said “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (Steiner 1993). Through the current Internet, even dog would not have privacy.

Ironically, the physical reasons why people judge crucially on the Internet is similar to massacre behavior in real life.

Firstly, they believe the responsibility could be separate to each person, that means they do not break the law, and it’s hard to figure who should take that responsibility, in some range, they are faced the pressure of majorities, neutral also embodies the attitude of support here (Jensen, R., 2008)

Secondly, they believe they are one of the “noble” community, a justice behavior of words and deeds will have more supporters from society since everyone wants to be ethnic. Thus, bringing self-satisfaction to people.

Furthermore, they have the obligation to speak freely(power). More than these, Internet blurs each person’s identity, makes them could not directly face the target people. Physically, let them express boldly.

Pathetically, this is not a social media or Internet problem, but rather digital media that exposes social issues. So, except understand the function of algorism and logical for prevent being taken advantage by the commercial and political community, at any time, keep an eye on the environment and society in which we live.



Benkler, Y. (2006). “Introduction: a moment of opportunity and challenge” in The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press, 1-18.

Arendt, H. (2005). Responsibility and judgment. Random House Digital, Inc..

McRae, P. (2010). Forecasting the future over three horizons of change. ATA Magazine, (90), 4. Magazine/Volume 90/Number4/Pages/Forecasting-the-Future-Over-Three-Horizons-of-Change.aspx

Baym, N. K., & Boyd, D. (2012). Socially mediated publicness: An introduction. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media56(3), 320-329.

Ong, R. (2012) “Online Vigilante Justice Chinese Style and Privacy in China,” Information and Communications Technology Law 21(2): 127–45.

Jensen, R. (2008). The myth of the neutral professional. Questioning library neutrality: Essays from Progressive librarian, 89-96.

Steiner, P. (1993) “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog,” New Yorker, 5 July, (accessed 25 February 2015).

Critical Data Studies (CDS)

By chinos

The article for this critical review was by Andrew Lliadis and Federica Russo, they address the topic of Critical Data Studies (CDS). CDS is an emerging research segment in the field of data. According to Lliadis and Russo,“The nascent field of CDS is a formal attempt at naming the types of research that interrogate all forms of potentially depoliticized data science and to track the ways in which data are generated, curated, and how they permeate and exert power on all manner of forms of life.” (Lliadis, Russo, 2014). With data being a hot topic in our society today it is not hard to see why CDS is an important topic to address. Whether it be testing to see how valid current data research approaches  are or to debunk them and move on to other potential research methods. The article opens with a clear and necessary explanation of the relevance of data “Data are a form of power. Organizations own vast quantities of user information and hold lucrative data capital (Yousif, 2015), wield algorithms and data processing tools with the ability to influence emotions and culture (Gillespie, 2014; Kramer et al., 2016; Striphas, 2015), and researchers invoke data in the name of scientific objectivity while often ignoring that data are never raw but always ‘‘cooked’’ (Gitelman, 2013).The article also touched upon references to Big Data and to put the Big Data into context as defined by Boyd and Crawford  “We define Big Data as a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon that rests on the interplay of: (1) Technology: maximizing computation power and algorithmic accuracy to gather, analyze, link, and compare large data sets. (2) Analysis: drawing on large data sets to identify patterns in order to make economic, social, technical, and legal claims.(3) Mythology: the widespread belief that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy.” (Boyd & Crawford,  2012)

In the field of information, most data that had been generated, used and archived in the past by the institutional powers that once were and were generally accepted, are now coming under scrutiny for the recognition of concealed biased nature of information or lack of inclusivity of all stakeholders in the ecosystem, making such old assemblages questionable and rejected in some circles. Assemblages being defined  as “Assemblages is a concept that helps capture the multitude of ways that already-composed data structures inflect and interact with society, its organization and functioning, and the resulting impact on individuals’ daily lives.”(Lliadis, Russo, 2014) With the increase connectivity in human networks  and globalization due to social platforms, the need to have data that is accepted based on inclusivity and transparency of generation is in growing demand and becoming the standard of the future. CDS is an attempt to get a better understanding at data without the influences of the predominate powers that once influenced most. The hope is that data that is deemed acceptable and trustworthy can help move forward the various fields of application this data can be harnessed and deployed in. This is very important as the credibility of the entire field rest on this progress.

The push for CDS stems from this critic of data along the lines of  including issues related to politics, ethics, and epistemology.”(Lliadis, Russo, 2014)  To help build the case for CDS, lliadis and Russo, expand upon the current explorations where CDS is currently being applied and the intentions hoped to be gained they explain “CDS has covered a wide area of communications inquiry, including data power issues in social media, apps, the Internet, web, and platforms, but also and equally importantly statis tics, policy, research, and organization.” (lliadis, Russo, 2014)

Should CDS continue to gain traction there are challenges it might face as it tries to rise as a credible source of data research validator since what CDS specifically is, is still not fully defined or understood by researchers in the data field. As as  an emerging field of data study ”‘what does a critical data studies look like?’’ Kitchin and Lauriault (2014) offered an answer to Dalton and Thatcher’s question and proposed that CDS should study ‘‘data assemblages,’’ that is ‘‘the technological, political, social and economic apparatuses and elements that constitutes and frames the generation, circulation and deployment of data.”  Also part of the challenges CDS is up against is to make its case as to what special contribution it can make that warrants its seclusion from the general study of data. As interestingly pointed out in the article “As Dalton et al. (2016) note, CDS might offend researchers who point out that all forms of research are critical and create a false separation between critical theory and data science. As such, CDS continues to remain an inclusive field that is open to self-critique and dialog, itself politicized in its quest to politicize Big Data.”  

In reviewing the article, looking at how CDS compares to other research study approaches that exist around social sciences and information was considered as a way to gauge how far off or similar CDS is to other research practices.  For instance comparing it to the approaches in Mcgrath’s article, Methodology matters: Doing research in the behavioral and social sciences. According to Mcgrath “The meaning of research evidence of any area of science is inherently tied to the means or methods by which that evidence was obtained. Hence to understand empirical evidence, its meaning and its limitation. Requires that you understand the concepts and techniques on which that evidence is based” and Mcgrath’s main points are summarized saying: (a)Results depend on methods. All methods have limitations. Hence, any set of results is limited.(b) It is not possible to maximize all desirable features of method in anyone study; tradeoffs and dilemmas are involved.
(c) Each study (each set of results) must be interpreted in relation to other evidence bearing on the same questions.” (Mcgrath, E. (1995). Another research work comparing to compare CDS to is Kincheloe and McLaren’s work on Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research. They discuss and point out how “A critical social theory is concerned in particular with issues of power and justice and the ways that the economy; matters of race, class, and gender; ideologies; discourses; education; religion and other social institutions; and cultural dynamics interact to construct a social system.”(Kincheloe & McLaren 2002). In looking at these research methodologies there are similarities to the fundamentals CDS looks to address however there is still a sense of relevance and credibility that still needs to be established with CDS. A suggestion has been for CDS to tackle long term projects as mentioned by lliadis and Russo,“What need to be established are long-term projects that take up specific challenges in CDS by proposing critical investigations into Big Data assemblages.”  Topics that have been of concern to researchers in CDS include food agriculture, governmental, Health and even socio technical problems the article further mentions “Beyond humanitarian social data problems, sociotechnical systems that populate the worlds of economics, finance, and the stock market pose a significant challenge to CDS due to their closed, inaccessible nature.” They also make reference upon Christiaens research “Building on the work of Maurizio Lazzarato, Christiaens provides a critical take on human–machine interaction, arguing that the high-speed data-driven nature of financial markets subjectivize traders in preconscious ways due to their inability to keep apace with automated transactions Christiaens argues that CDS must consider processes of digital subjectivation and subjugation that occur when Big Data science is applied to socio- technical systems that are governed by humans and machines.”


Lliadis and Russo finish the article by sharing their views on CDS principles “In our view, CDS follows three basic principles derived from this broadly Aristotelean approach: the identification of social data problems, the design of critical frameworks for addressing social data problems, and the application of social solutions to increase data literacy. These three simple principles allow for a collective learning experience where critical approaches can be put to use in specific contexts. CDS should strongly emphasize an applied and participatory approach to learning and view interaction as an important part of the applied learning process.” Lliadis and Russo conclude acknowledging the importance of CDS being inclusive and equipping the users with the right tools for educating themselves. “The application of social solutions to increase data literacy and justice involves effecting change by conducting research and sharing that research and the activities that might grow out of it with the public. Importantly, CDS should provide individuals with the necessary tools for becoming more informed and the ability to organize efforts around data justice issues.” (lliadis, Russo, 2014)


To conclude, data is here to stay and is growing into all the areas of our lives. With the role data now plays in society, there must be more efforts in evaluating  data and in some acceptable way from all stakeholders. While CDS intentions of initiating a more rigorous approach seem to be logical and on the right track, it is still a young practice yet to truly be tried in the data field, its current siloed practice across different fields is also still yet to prove if this is a strength or weakness for its possible implementation and standardization. At the end there is admiration for such an initiative to critically analyze and critic data in a manner that is considerate to those that use it.



Iliadis, A., & Russo, F. (2016). Critical data studies: An introduction. Big Data & Society, 3(2), 2053951716674238.


Dalton, Taylor and Thatcher (2016) Critical data studies: A dialog on data and space. Big Data & Society 3(1): 1–9

Boyd, D., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for big data: Provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, communication & society, 15(5), 662-679.


Kincheloe, J. L., & McLaren, P. (2002). Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research. Ethnography and schools: Qualitative approaches to the study of education, 87-138.


Mcgrath, E. (1995). Methodology matters: Doing research in the behavioral and social sciences. In Readings in Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000 (2nd ed.

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