06 SES 02, Media Practices: Perspectives and experiences
The proposed paper will present research outcomes of empirical data taken from my dissertation that highlight interesting findings in relation to online data collection processes. Starting from the assumption that personal profiles are created by governmental agencies as well as a variety of different economic companies (Bauman and Lyon, 2012; Lyon, 2014), the research tries to look at how subjects constitute themselves and their own identity in relation to the assumptions these subjects have on how the data about themselves available online relates back to their actual selves. An interesting juxtaposition is thus drawn up between what could be analysed as quantifiable, coded data and questions of the self (Zuboff, 2015). The situation of contemporary practices of data collection is complicated further by the fact that the assumptions of what governmental agencies or economic companies do with the data is characterised by a degree of uncertainty and presumption. It is in relation to this uncertainty that subjects are bound to perceive varying degrees of agency in relation to their own data, which allows for a consideration of questions of agency as well as privacy. Using both theoretical considerations as well as qualitative empirical data, the dissertation touches on questions of agency in relation to personal data, questions of identity and questions of autonomy in an age of online surveillance. Thus, the dissertation shows that the individual contexts in which the subjects place their identities can be related back to how they theorise their handling of different forms of data collection and surveillance and how they perceive a sense of agency in relation to their own data. The research questions, emerging out of what has just been described, could be summarised as follows:
- How do people make sense of and deal with current trends of data collection/ surveillance online?
- What types of agency do they analyse for themselves within this context?
- How can this be related to how they perceive themselves in the world in terms of agency and in terms of their own identity?
- What does this mean for broader social and educational theories of autonomy, citizenship, identity and discplining functions?
It becomes obvious that the paper tries to raise important questions on autonomy, as well as “Bildungs” processes relevant for educational, social and cultural sciences, which is also supported by the theoretical framework the dissertation refers back to, predominantly the theories of Anthony Giddens and Zygmunt Bauman in relation to the constitution of society and conditions of liquidity in contemporary society (Giddens, 1986, 1991; Bauman, 1993, 2005). Besides the research objectives and the theoretical framework, the international perspective on the topic is given because of the sample, which covers cases from a wide range of cultural backgrounds including Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Turkey, Poland and the UK, of which five are also (currently) members of the European Union.
The topic of the paper relates questions of identity and self, with the context of datafication as a consequence of different digital practices, which cover all aspects of life. The phenomenon of Big Data as well as other research on user profile and identity, which is of a quantitative nature, could be criticised for not placing enough attention on the individual contexts and settings of the research subjects. While users are often objectified into “objects of information” or “objects of surveillance” (Mitrou et al., 2014), not enough attention is paid to the subjective and individual context in which these practices take place in. With reference to these considerations I have decided to use a combination of Multiple Case Study and Grounded Theory as the methodological framework for my dissertation. The Case Study allows a “deep” understanding of the individual contexts (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Robson, 2002) in order to research in how far identities are constructed, presented and negotiated in the light of data collection processes. The constant comparison of the cases and the inductive research design allow for theory to emerge (Mabry, 2008). The inductive research design as well as the iterative process also constitute the association to Grounded Theory. The methodological reference to Grounded Theory following Strauss and Corbin (Strauss and Corbin, 1990) allow for a systematic perspective on the researched phenomenon on the basis of a number of procedures, that help to develop the “emerging” theory in an inductive process and therefore help to improve the validity and reliability of the research. In the course of the research 10 semi-structured interviews have been conducted, which were then analysed following the coding paradigm of Grounded Theory. The semi-structured interview thereby allows for a high level of openness and spontaneity in relation to the conversation and the research subject and at the same time guarantees a level of comparability between the cases due to the structured part of topics and questions in the interview.
The objective of the proposed paper is to present the research results of my dissertation and highlight some of the aspects which are relevant for a European educational discourse. There are a number of expected outcomes in relation to the fragmentation and distortion of self, questions of agency and structure as well as meaning making, which are essential for the educational sciences and also prove to be of relevance in relation to questions of digitalisation. The fundamental changes resulting out of technological advancements and digitalisation also indicate a reference to the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion as they highlight processes of how fragments of the self are included, while other fragments are excluded in an online representation of the self. Questions of self-expression (both online and offline), also relate further to an analysis of how meaning is made in different social and cultural contexts, which again highlights forms of inclusion and exclusion in the sense of a prioritisation of certain topics and themes in contrast to others, which can be of influence also for wider social processes of inclusion and exclusion of certain social groups.
•Bauman Z (1993) Life in Fragments – Essays in Postmodern Morality. Hoboken N.J.: Blackwell Publishing. •Bauman Z (2005) Liquid Life. Cambridge: Polity Press. •Bauman Z & Lyon D (2012) Liquid Surveillance: A conversation. Hoboken: PCVS Polity. •Giddens A (1986) The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. •Giddens A (1991) Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. •Lyon D (2014) ‘Surveillance, Snowden and Big Data: Capacities, Consequences, Critique’. Big Data and Society (July-December). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Online: DOI: 10.1177/2053951714541861 (last accessed: 10.06.2015). (pp. 1-13). •Mabry L (2008) ‘Case Study in Social Research’ in Alasuutari P, Brickman L & Brannen J (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Research Methods, London: Sage. •Miles M & Huberman A (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage. •Mitrou L, Kandias M, Stavrou V & Gritzalis D (2014) Social media profiling: A Panopticon or Omniopticon tool? in Proc. of the 6th Conference of the Surveillance Studies Network. Spain: 2014. •Robson C (2002) Real World Research – A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers, 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. •Strauss A & Corbin J (1990) Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park: Sage. •Zuboff S (2015) ‘Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization’. Journal of Information Technology (30). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. (pp. 75-89)
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