Data-driven: Agribusiness, activists and their shared politics of the future

Authors: Kelly Bronson*, University of Ottawa
Topics: Rural Geography, Cultural Ecology, Social Geography
Keywords: big data; agriculture; food system; imaginaries
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Innovations in big data and intelligent machines for mining them are expected to “revolutionize” food production. In this talk I will argue that there exists a widely shared, uninterrogated “imaginary” of data as capable of driving social change unmediated by human intervention. This “data-driven” imaginary has social force—it helps gather support for the funding of technological research programs conducted by corporate and by activist scientists and it is used to sell commercial tools to farmers. But it does something more, it depoliticizes big agricultural data by invisibilizing the human decision-making which is structuring the collection and use of agricultural big data with negative consequences for the realization of diversity and equity in food systems. The talk, and the larger book project it draws from, stands as my attempt to make visible this imaginary, to describe its social force but also to undo some of that force by exposing the entanglement of personal history, economic interest, technical and societal goals in the production of agricultural big data and their infrastructures.

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