[Book] All data are local

All Data Are Local: Thinking Critically in a Data-Driven Society
By Yanni Alexander Loukissas
MIT Press
April 2019, 272 pages

How to analyze data settings rather than data sets, acknowledging the meaning-making power of the local.

In our data-driven society, it is too easy to assume the transparency of data. Instead, Yanni Loukissas argues in All Data Are Local, we should approach data sets with an awareness that data are created by humans and their dutiful machines, at a time, in a place, with the instruments at hand, for audiences that are conditioned to receive them. The term data set implies something discrete, complete, and portable, but it is none of those things. Examining a series of data sources important for understanding the state of public life in the United States—Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, the Digital Public Library of America, UCLA’s Television News Archive, and the real estate marketplace Zillow—Loukissas shows us how to analyze data settings rather than data sets.

Loukissas sets out six principles: all data are local; data have complex attachments to place; data are collected from heterogeneous sources; data and algorithms are inextricably entangled; interfaces recontextualize data; and data are indexes to local knowledge. He then provides a set of practical guidelines to follow. To make his argument, Loukissas employs a combination of qualitative research on data cultures and exploratory data visualizations. Rebutting the “myth of digital universalism,” Loukissas reminds us of the meaning-making power of the local.

Yanni Alexander Loukissas is Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Co-Designers: Cultures of Computer Simulation in Architecture.

> Talk by the author at The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (23 May 2020)
The talk out six principles: all data are local; data have complex attachments to place; data are collected from heterogeneous sources; data and algorithms are inextricably entangled; interfaces recontextualize data; and data are indexes to local knowledge.

HT: InfoData of Il Sole 24 Ore