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Knowing what counts: How journalists and civic technologists use and imagine data

Author: Baack, S.
Published in: Groningen: University of Groningen.
Year: 2018
Type: Books

From news recommendations to smart cities, our lives are increasingly affected by the aggregation of data. In this dissertation, I study how this growing reliance on data affects democratic visions and practices by looking at the practices, self-understandings, and visions of data journalists and data activists. These actors are particularly relevant because they are pioneers for how data is employed in key areas of democratic publics: journalism and civil society. Data journalists and data activists act as exemplars for other journalists and civil society actors, and thereby shape their perception and use of data. In addition, data journalists and data activists have developed a close relationship with each other because both rely on data, and aspire to provide a public service that empowers citizens. I examine how they are able to collaborate and complement each other, and reflect on the broader implications of their entanglements for the relationship between journalism and civil society. The dissertation is based on three case studies. The first study shows how data activists draw on open source culture, and envision that freely available government data increases transparency and makes governments more participatory and representative. The second study examines how data activists attempt to enable the public to more easily engage with authorities, using data. The third study shows how the practices of data journalists and data activists interlock and range from the aim to steer public debates by highlighting important issues via gatekeeping on the one hand, to facilitating the actions of citizens on the other. Throughout these three case studies, I show that the growing reliance of data in journalism and civil society affects both how, and by whom, older democratic visions and notions of journalism are being implemented.

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Stefan Baack

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