The following progress report on my research into the politics and ideologies of data visualisation, begins with a brief overview of my academic, scholarly and industry-relevant research and includes concise summaries of arguments to be shared in related DICG335 projects.
I am a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate student, majoring in sociology and minoring in design. Questions of politics and ideology, broad public policy positions and related agendas overlap and concern the agendas of social policy analysts.
My undergraduate training brings the academically relevant study of neoliberalism, population geography and statistics to bear on the progress of my current project. Relevantly, since 2011 I have conducted independent research into the politics and ideology of data visualisation in examining the social issue known as forced adoption. I have also undertaken independent historical research into 20th century Australian state welfare policies and practices. This background knowledge informs my current research and provides the interim results of an ongoing case study. Significantly, I have also sourced the collaborative subject blog, Cybercultures, where Dr. Christopher Moore recently introduced me to Accelerationism, theories of systems decay, entropy and more.
Resources that have guided the development of my topic thus far are hyperlinked in the following draft outline of my research report. Each of four headings below open with a related concise summary of related arguments to be shared in Assessments 2 & 3. These summaries have been informed by DIGC335 course material suggests and are paraphrased as block quotes below. The following research has relevance not only to the industries of social work and child welfare but education and software development.
Data visualisation, history and cyberculture
I will argue that data visualisation technology looks to the past as much as it does to the future in thinking about cyberculture and the types of technological, corporate, political, social, and legal changes that have been represented in popular culture.
Politics and ideologies of data visualisation
I will argue that governments and bureaucracies have significant authority in the relationship between the user and the computer, aiming questions of cyberculture at the legitimacy of related structures of command and control.
- Politics of data visualisation
- Concealment of ideological assumptions and political and ideological agendas.
- Values inherent in data selection, methods, media and designs.
- Power relations.
- Concealment of ideologies and agendas with ‘hard facts’.
- Visual rhetoric
- Gate Keepers
- Who has the control?
Case study: Towards a statistical and contextual analysis of forced adoption (unpublished and ongoing)
This emancipatory research was undertaken to examine the statistical grounds for viewing ‘forced adoption’ as a ‘product of the times‘ (see mores of society, predicated by legislation prohibiting their taboos).
It will be employed in the current research to exemplify how the politics and ideologies of data visualisation speak to the limits and affordances of our technology infused realities.
- Significant findings:
- Illegitimate children are a known targeted group (para 2:14, p.34, Senate Report).
- Statistical analysis reveals trends at odds with what social scientists regarded as indicative of social mores in 1976 (see Kraus).
- Forced adoptions peaked between 1953-4, contrary to hegemonic discourse.
- Historical practices and policies consistently correlated with exponential trends in annual proportions of adoptions to ex-nuptial births.
- Evidence of a crisis between 1965-72 and an exponential increase in welfare payments to unmarried women aged 17 and over 1971-72.
- Underpinning ideologies, such as euthenics and eugenics (White Australia Policy), suggested systematisation or automation of social and political policies of illegitimate child removal.
- National and state exponential decline in adoptions circa 1971-2 may be due to social entropy.
Imaginaries and Futures
Scholarly research will be employed to argue that the politics and ideologies of data visualisation speak to a broad range of issues and concerns which have arisen as a result of the proliferation of digitally-enabled communication, networked computation and media technologies and practices.
Infinite Unknown, 2017, retrieved March 16, <http://www.infiniteunknown.net/tag/history/>
Traditionally we tend to think of prostheses as being strictly attributed to the disabled and the impaired. Prostheses get a pretty bad wrap, they are thought of negatively, as a kind of supplement to the ‘natural’ human body – a second best. But there is a new space growing in contemporary society thanks to modern science and technology along with the help of the internet, a space where prosthetics are cool. Contemporary prosthetics and those of the future don’t just mock the ‘natural’ human body – they go beyond the constraints of it potentially making someone….superhuman?
In a pod cast ‘The Internet of Things’ which you can find here, Andreea Borcea talks about, among other things, A foot designed by MIT which adapts to an individual’s gate allowing them to walk ‘seamlessly’ – so to speak. She also mentions DARPA’s touch sensitive artificial prosthetics which are currently being developed (For more cool stuff about linking the body’s nervous system with a prosthetic I recommend that you have a geez at this Ted Talk by Todd Kuiken).
These contemporary technologies not only allow ‘disabled’ people to simulate the ‘natural’ body and ‘normalize’ their body, but they also work to breakdown the distinction between able-bodied and disabled. When a human being who has lost…say their left arm, has theability to do all the same things as another human being thanks to a bionic limb intervention, how can we say they are disabled?? To extend that thought, think about ‘natural’ human legs; they are stuck there, we are unable to change them. Think about someone with one or more prosthetic limbs, they have the potential and opportunity to change and adapt their limbs to suit certain circumstances and situations. Take a look and listen to Hugh Herr for example who has two bionic legs and is the project director for the Powered Ankle-Foot Prosthesis at MIT.
When we think about prosthetics like this, it becomes clear that the future of prosthetic technology will allow people to go beyond the constraints of the ‘organic’ human body. Can we really still label these people as disabled? Will it come to a point where it is fashionable to replace flesh and blood with metal and wires?