Towards a Sociological Perspective on Data Society

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Bianca PRIETL, Department of Sociology, Germany
Datafication by now has invaded every sphere of the social and, hence, poses a challenge to sociological reasoning. Media studies have pointed out the implications of digital forms of communication as well as knowledge production, consumption, and distribution mostly with respect to social media. Building on these insights we argue for a more radical approach that understands an increasing number of societal processes as being data driven and, thus, analyzes our current society as a ‘data society’. We will argue for such a perspective by making a twofold argument:

(1) We point at the imperative necessity for sociology to develop theoretical perspectives and practical methods to meet the uprising challenges posed by datafication and digitalization. Although big data is currently paid considerable attention, it is mostly treated as a rather isolated phenomenon with discussions being limited to narrow issues such as privacy. However, data based social processes not only have become ubiquitous but their (re)production, utilization, and relevance have reached novel qualities which render society as a whole deeply changed. Therefore, sociological reasoning needs to confront itself with this data society.

(2) In order to demonstrate this, we will reconstruct processes of algorithmization and their relevance to society at large. Drawing, among others, on system theoretical approaches, we develop an analytical framework to understand the new forms of data communication and their data traces, identified by media studies, as manifesting interpenetrating qualities to all kinds of social systems.

Eventually, this focus on data related communication enables us to formulate a research agenda that meets current societal developments.