The ontological preconditions for radical digital citizenship

This wonderful paper by Akwugo Emejulu & Callum McGregor left me thinking back to something I wrote a few years ago for the Centre for Social Ontology about the implications of ‘big data’ for human agency. The thrust of the argument was that if social science exists within the horizons of platform firms (i.e. it restricts itself to asking empirical questions which can be answered by platform generated data) then it can’t take platform capitalism as an object, instead leading it to fade into the background as a precondition for analysis. My point was largely about the empiricism of data science and (much) computational social science. However their paper on radical digital citizenship makes me wonder if there’s a broader point to be explored here, about how digitally-intensive modes of activity (whether it’s data science or digital literacy) will tend to presuppose digital infrastructures, naturalising their political economy by building their current form into how outcomes and techniques are specified at the level of practice.

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