In the past three years, DataNord network has connected researchers around the topics of datafication, data justice, and data inequality in a Nordic context. Below we introduce the main themes explored in the network.

Nordic welfare states and datafication

The Nordic context offered an interesting background to study how welfare state values and public service media might appear in the age of datafication (Nikunen & Hokka 2020), and how transparent the journalism practices of using data and algorithms are (Rydenfelt, Haapanen & Lehtiniemi 2021). Research outputs composed ideas of how datafication might appear in a welfare state context and would the welfare state give datafication some unique qualities (e.g. Kaun & Dencik 2020, Dencik & Kaun 2020; Hokka 2021). In research output, there was suggested an idea that data could be used for social good (Kazansky, Torre, van der Velden, Wissenbach & Milan 2019).

Data in the everyday life

Network’s participants studied the datafication of society and what datafication means for our everyday life. Topics considered themes such as how datafication affects education and how social life forms in datafied media landscapes (Bolin 2020), how digital citizenship works in Estonia (Tammpuu & Masso 2019), and how does big data and its influences on political and economic citizenship appear in the age of datafication (Milan 2021). There is a concern about how datafication affects citizens and their participation. Therefore, some of the research output handled how the audience copes with digital platforms and data tracking (Hartley & Schwartz 2020) and how a citizen can manage their own data (Lehtiniemi & Haapoja, 2020). 

Data, trust and the pandemic

Themes such as trust in data practices and data-driven systems (Steedman, Kennedy & Jones 2020), and data trusts and transparency (Hartley & Mathieu 2018) were covered in research outputs. These themes became even more crucial at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic offered a new perspective to handle these themes with new innovations such as coronavirus tracking app in Sweden (Kaun, Jakobsson & Stiernstedt 2020), and study trust towards the tracking apps (Kennedy 2020). Also, the visualisations of data during and before the pandemic was a topic of many research outputs (e.g. Kennedy 2020b; Kennedy 2020c; Engebretsen & Kennedy 2020a; Kennedy, Weber & Engebretsen 2020; Engebretsen & Kennedy 2020b; Kennedy, Engebretsen, Hill, Kirk, Weber & Allen 2019).

Data, discrimination and inequality

Both the power of data economics (Ruckenstein 2020) and media companies, have evoked concerns over new inequalities caused by datafication and algorithms (Nikunen 2021). Network’s participants have covered themes such as the responsibilities and the power of digital media platforms (Pohjonen, Pantti & Laaksonen 2021), vulnerable data subjects (Malgieri & Niklas 2020), and the inequality of data practices and social mobility (Oman 2019b).  The algorithmic discrimination was covered in many research outputs (e.g. Gangadharan & Nilas 2019; Niklas & Gangadharan 2018; Gangadharan & Niklas 2018). New ways of discrimination have led to a concern about how datafication affects minorities (Nikunen & Hokka 2022).   Participants of the network covered topics such as how security algorithms may affect refugees (Kssapoglu & Masso 2021, Masso & Kasapoglu 2020), the ways that migration authorities use social media profiles to determine refugees as ‘genuine’ or ‘fraud’ (Andreassen 2021). Data and human rights were tightly connected in some research outputs. In some research outputs, participants studied how does data, de-Westernization, universalisation, and decolonial approach link together in the age of datafication (Milan & Treré 2019) and how communities at the people in marginal groups coped in the datafied society during pandemic (Milan, Treré & Masiero 2021; Milan & Treré 2020). There were even research outputs about how technology and datafication affect prison life (Kaun & Stiernstedt, 2021, 2020a, 2020b, 2019). The inequality has resulted in a concern about the ethics of algorithms (Trifuljesko & Ruckenstein 2019) and data justice such as the legislative problems of datafication such as problems of automated decision-making (Kaun 2021) and the public policies of AI in the EU (Niklas & Dencik 2020). Participants have covered themes such as privacy management (Lehmuskallio & Lampinen 2019), privacy and security issues of tracing human mobility through mobile phones (Silm, Järv & Masso 2020), surveillance and media (Bolin & Jerslev 2018), and data autonomy (Hokkanen, Soronen, Talvitie-Lamberg & Valtonen 2021).

Datafication and journalism

Research themes covered also datafication of journalism (e.g. Mathieu & Jorge 2020; Mathieu & Vengerfeldt 2020). Datafication has also changed the media’s ways of analysing the audience. There were research outputs that considered themes such as datafication of the audience (Mathieu & Jorge 2020), reimagining the audience in the age of datafication (Pruulmann Vengerfeldt & Meyer zu Härste 2020), and audience metrics in journalism and digital media (Bolin & Velkova 2020). Some research outputs also handled themes of how datafication affects journalism and personalisation algorithm of news (Hartley & Hansen 2021) and news recommendations (Haapoja & Lampinen 2018).

Future Research

Theoretical work has focused on developing the concept of data welfare state. Datafication has different impacts on different societies and therefore, from the Nordic point of view the impact on welfare state appears central. Drawing on the concept of media welfare state, scholarship can further develop the concept of data welfare state. This work began in the second half of the workshop series and still continues with joint article by the three coordinators.

While critical data studies has paid attention to the ways in which datafication may enhance existing social inequalities and create new ones, there is still not enough research on particular inequalities that emerge in the Nordic welfare setting. For example what kind of inequalities may arise through automated decision making in social welfare systems, in management of unemployment, social services and migration. How datafied systems owned by commercial technology companies affect core of the public service, such as education and health services? Moreover, the various racial and ethnic minorities in the Nordic countries have experienced discrimination historically, but now also in connection to datafied archived systems of population control. These emerging new datafied inequalities remain an important area of research.

The material and environmental aspects of datafication appear as increasingly relevant in terms of climate change. New technologies and datafied systems are seen to help in reducing carbon emissions, however, not enough attention has been paid to the environmental costs of increasing the role of digital technologies in every level of society.