NEW! The construction of open government data: decisions points and discriminatory potential

“The construction of open government data: decisions points and discriminatory potential” By Timothy Davies (Web Science DTC, University of Southampton / World Wide Web Foundation)

Prepared for the ‘Data and Discrimination: Converting Critical Concerns into Productive Inquiry’ pre-conference at the 64th Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association Thursday, May 22, 2014 – Seattle, Washington

Slides from the presentation can be found here: Open Data and Discrimination Presentation May 2014


Advocacy for Open Government Data (OGD) has emphasised its many potential benefits, and has tended to suggest that these are benefits for everyone. Through a narrow conceptualisation of OGD as involving the publication of pre-existing data in common formats under open licenses on data portals, an OGD movement has spread rapidly across the world. Yet, in practice, open data initiatives often involve the active construction of new public data infrastructures, with legacy and contemporary political, social and technical choices shaping the data that is made available, and how it is published.
Depending on how it specific datasets and wider ecosystems of data are constructed, open data may have different impacts on different sectors of society, leading neither to zerosum nor win-win outcomes, but instead various distributions of outcomes for incumbents, empowered communities, minorities and marginalised groups. This paper surfaces often hidden aspects of open data implementation to point to areas for further critical and constructive inquiry.
Keywords: open data, standards, social impacts, infrastructures, politics

Paper available here: Davies (2014) The construction of open government data