“Undermining Data”: My favorite article title to date

Annette Markham

Nov 16, 2013


So check out my article in the October 2013 issue of First Monday.  In this article, I take issue with our overuse of the term ‘data’ both in everyday life and in scientific research institutions. I look at the rhetorical power  of the term, emphasizing how the idea of ‘data’ frames the way we see and make sense of the world around us.  It’s mostly written for researchers and is meant to contribute in a small way to ongoing critical conversations about big data and the rise of computational thinking.

Undermining data: A critical analysis of a core term in scientific inquiry


The term ‘data’ functions as a powerful frame for discourse about how knowledge is derived and privileges certain ways of knowing over others. Through its ambiguity, the term can foster a self–perpetuating sensibility that ‘data’ is incontrovertible, something to question the meaning or the veracity of, but not the existence of. This article critically examines the concept of ‘data’ within larger questions of research method and frameworks for scientific inquiry. The current dominance of the term ‘data’ and ‘big data’ in discussions of scientific inquiry as well as everyday advertising focuses our attention on only certain aspects of the research process. The author suggests deliberately decentering the term, to explore nuanced frames for describing the materials, processes, and goals of inquiry.

Read more on the First Monday website!