‘The other mining’: rural communities, autonomy and data production

Type: Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Latin America Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Tad Mutersbaugh
Chairs: Joseph Bryan

Call for Submissions

Paper panel: ‘The other mining’: rural communities, autonomy and data production
The production of data has long been key to asserting a state presence in rural areas. The census, survey, and cadaster, the best known of these practices, have been more recently transformed through (i.) transition to digital data collection and storage, and (ii.) the entry of quasi- and non-state organizations such as NGOs, micro-lending banks, and transnational firms into data production. We recognize that the forms of data ‘mined’ in rural communities do not exist a priori, but rather result from the deployment of institutional technologies such as the survey. This production of  ‘big data' brings a number of important effects.  Topping this list is the expansion of data production beyond historical measures, in which a dramatic increase in the types of data produced is matched to far-reaching political economic changes. Biometrics, genetic material, and personal geo-data each permit intensified state surveillance and private accumulation, while dramatically altering the spatial configuration of these data production.  In like manner, so-called green markets, developed around carbon credits, ecosystem services and organic products, extend understandings of data and its management as central to the organization and expansion of markets, while micro-credit and cash transfer programs are built on the principle that people’s daily lives must conform to existing, detailed data that fixes everyday spatial practices. 

This session looks to do three things.  The first involves surveying the expansion of data production in rural areas in terms of the proliferation of points of contact between people, economic institutions, and the state.  The second foregrounds the importance of understanding data in terms of production, examining the various forms labor, waged or not, required to produce data.  A third set of questions enquires into the new challenges that data production poses for communities.  One key concern here is how data production has circumvented previous efforts by communities to resist resource mapping, property registration, and census counts, by using consumption habits such as cell phone use, agricultural inputs, and housing as key sites for the production of data. 

We invite papers that look to address these points through engagement with the following questions: 1) What is the relation between collection of data about material life (land, energy sources, water, genetic materials such as seeds or human DNA) and its attachments (geodata, usufruct, microfinance, remittances) and eventual or co-occurring actions that impact autonomy?  2) Data is gathered with the intent of extracting value, but what theories of value are most appropriate to specific instances? 3) What implications does data production hold for the production of new rural subjectivities? 4) In terms of reflexivity, scholarly practices also produce and 'mine' data. With all due apologies to Lorde--how, in this case, can the master's tools be used to dismantle the proverbial house?  5) To what extent does the proliferation of data factor in community efforts to counter capital accumulation? How might we best conceptualize the multiple forms of organizing for autonomy?

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Description

Data production has long been a key to asserting state presence in rural areas. The census, survey, and cadaster, the best known of these practices, have been more recently transformed through (i.) transition to digital data collection and storage, and (ii.) the entry of quasi- and non-state organizations such as NGOs, micro-lending banks, and transnational firms into data production. We recognize that the data ‘mined’ in rural communities does not exist a priori, but rather results from a deployment of institutional technologies such as the survey. The panel’s intent will be to analyze a number of varied data production efforts (e.g., genetic, microlending, environmental, geocoded personal data), better understand those effects associated with this ‘big data' transition and assess the utility of theoretical approaches that we currently use to understand these effects.  Dynamics studied include, for instance, a dramatic increase in the quantity and qualities of data production and the linkage of these data to political economic changes; an increased production of biometric, genetic, and personal geo-data used to facilitate state surveillance; the rise of so-called green markets developed around the production of data regarding carbon credits, ecosystem services and organic products; and finally, data-driven micro-credit and cash transfer programs built on efforts to ensure that people’s daily lives are spatially constrained in accordance with the requirements of the data produced. 


Agenda

Type Details Minutes
Presenter Joseph Bryan*, Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, The Agrarian Question Goes Digital; Data Mining and Commons in Oaxaca, Mexico 20
Presenter Garrett Graddy-Lovelace*, American University School of International Service, Veronica Limeberry*, American University, Dialogue As Data As Dialogue: Emancipatory Methodologies for the Rural Over-studied and Under-served 20
Presenter Tad Mutersbaugh*, University of Kentucky, Gender and Data Production in a Coffee Farmers' Cooperative 20
Presenter Sarah Lyon*, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY, Impact Investing: Creating Value through Debt and Data in Oaxaca, Mexico 20
Presenter Holly Worthen*, Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca, Creating rural women: collecting data, inventing subjects 20

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