media, information, the contemporary

Call for Abstracts – Lives of Data v2.0: Computing, Money, Media Workshop

We are excited to announce the ‘Lives of Data v2.0: Computing, Money, Media’ Workshop, on 05-06 January 2018.

Call for Abstracts

The first ‘Lives of Data’ Workshop, in January 2017, initiated engaging, cross-disciplinary conversations on the historical, cultural, political, and technological conditions of data-driven knowledge production and circulation in India and South Asia. The workshop brought together a diverse group of interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners with backgrounds in history of science, anthropology, media and technology studies, software engineering, data science, economics, and policy-making. The first workshop addressed a region and polity emboldened by a futuristic nostalgia for sovereignty via digitality and biometrics, and everyday ‘ends of history’ through technological disruptions.

The Lives of Data v2.0 workshop aims to further examine the implications of the data revolution, and the historical and emergent computational cultures in India and South Asia. The workshop will build upon a mix of academic and practice-based research on history of statistics, media and computational cultures, politics and practices of data-driven governance, and big data infrastructures and imaginaries.

In addition to the themes of the first workshop, this iteration will also focus on questions concerning digital money and machine intelligence. In light of the currency demonetisation, forced cashless-ness and the rise (and stagnation) of digital payments apps and crypto-currencies, and the establishment of Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a centralised digital infrastructure for tax collection and monitoring, it is crucial to look at digital money as a medium and a data object. The new circuits of official income tax surveillance and analytics, speculative finance, mobile wallet apps, and bitcoin brokers, generate and operate through versatile, big data shadows; reconfiguring the meanings of money, the ultimate medium of exchange.

On a related register of aggregation and monetisation of data, after AI, the founding chairman of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) and the architect of Aadhaar, recently remarked that, “Data is its own means”. Irony aside, the conditions of possibility for such an accumulative episteme of computing that informs technocratic claim-making about disruptive potentials of data and machine intelligence, are yet to be thoroughly examined. After the Indian Supreme Court’s August 2017 decision to uphold Right to Privacy as a fundamental right, there is also a need take a fresh look at the affordances of digital media in conjunction with the evolving boundaries of public and private.

Continuing our concerted efforts to map the proliferation of digital technology and media infrastructures, through academic and practice-based research, the workshop will explore the substantive and performative bundling of different media-technology and computational forms, which afford ‘disruption’. Expressions of such bundling range from Machine Learning based assistive technologies and chatbots, to the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones in marriage video production, to name a few. Thus, a critical focus on both the subtle and radical, mathematical and aesthetic shifts that have made machine intelligence possible, is key to reflect upon the contemporary, and its constitutive data objects, infrastructures, and imaginaries.


The key questions which the workshop will explore are:

– What is data? How is it imagined, collected, archived, developed, scraped, parsed, mined, cleaned, used, interpreted, re-produced, circulated and deleted?

– How do we map the relationships between data, infrastructure, and knowledge production?

– How can we develop a historically and materially grounded understanding of financialisation of data, and the emergence of media forms such as digital money, mobile-wallets, and blockchains?

– What is the status of intermediaries in a world of extant devices, paper-based records, cashless transactions, biometric authentications, third-party apps, AI bots, and (leaky) MIS, among other things?

– What are the stakes involved in analysing the ever increasing volume, velocity, variety and value of data? How do practitioners understand the changing nature of their work with data?

– How do we conceptualise the data publics?


Workshop themes include:

– Histories of State and Statistics, Classification, Enumeration, and Planning

– Data, Memory, and Materiality: Archives, Paper/Digital Databases, Warehouses, Data Centres, Server Farms

– Data Analytics in Digital Humanities and Computational Social Sciences

– Thinking through the ‘Digital’: Hardware, Code, Meta-Data, Formats, Protocols, Programming Languages, Information Architectures, Algorithms, Apps, APIs, Interfaces, Platforms, Dashboards, etc.

– Modelling and Engineering Performativity: Metrics, Ratings, Analytics

– Data Objects, Relationalities, Ontologies of Machine Learning

– ‘Beautiful Data’: Design, Aesthetics, Vision, and Visualisation

Data-Driven Urbanism: Geographies of Mobile Computing, Locative Apps and Social Media, GIS, and Smart Cities

– Openness and Access amidst Data Shadows: Practices, Communities, and Contestations around Open Data, Hacks, and Leaks

– Disruptive and Everyday Monetisation of Data: Digital Payments, Cashless-ness, Speculative Flows, and Data/Value. #FinTech #CryptoCurrencies #MobileMoney

– ‘SysAdmin’ like the State: Bio-Politics, Surveillance, User/Citizen, Governance, Policing, and Law. #Demonetisation #Aadhaar #RightToPrivacy #DataProtectionLaw


The Sarai Programme invites submission of abstracts for the ‘Lives of Data v2.0: Computing, Money, Media’ Workshop. Besides academic researchers, we strongly encourage media, design, and software practitioners to apply for the workshop. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words, and should be sent to by 15 October, 2017, with the subject heading ‘Proposal for the Lives of Data Workshop.’ Authors of the selected abstracts will be notified by 30 October, 2017.

The workshop will be held on 05-06 January, 2018 at Sarai-CSDS, 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi. The Sarai Programme will cover three days of accommodation for outstation participants. In addition, participants from India will be eligible for travel support.