Media @ McGill

Data Walkshops: Rebuilding the Data City as Commons

Submitted by Media@McGill on

Hosted by: Alison Powell

Wednesday August 10, Media@McGill, 13h00- 16h00

Thursday August 11, ECTO, 15h00-18h00

 Can we really produce ‘big data’ from the bottom up? The assemblages that we consider to be part of the production and positioning of ‘big data’ are themselves large-scale: the computing power required to deal with multiple forms of digital data, the analytics processes required to derive sensible or logical predictions, the institutional meaning-making apparatus required to create frameworks and application spaces for this data are all easier to mobilize top down. In 2014 I wrote an article called “Big Data From the Bottom Up” with Nick Couldry. Since then I’ve been experimenting with ways to invert the power relations of big data and to build new knowledges about data in cities

One strategy is the “data walkshop” – a workshop and walk where we try to define what kinds of things we consider to be “data” in cities, and where and how data, citizenship, and resistance intersect.

These walkshops provide new visions of what data is – and what it could be. They democratize knowledge about data and about city space, and create radical possibilities for rethinking how data has been used against us, and how it could be otherwise.

In a walkshop, a group of citizens assembles for a brief conversation before heading out to walk and talk in the city. In an approach influenced by the Situationists and by Baudelaire, walkers step out to try and identify evidence of data in space. We walk and talk together, observing and documenting city spaces that are:


  • data rich

  • data calm

  • data resistant

  • where data is valued

  • where value is contested


The walks invite participants to photograph, document, map and describe these elements. After 45 minutes of walking, participants return to narrate their group’s journey to others and to present a creative assessment and intervention based on their discussion.


Please bring a camera, a notebook and pen, a pair of comfortable shoes and an open mind.