Undermining ‘data’: A critical examination of a core term in scientific inquiry


  • Annette N. Markham Aarhus University




The term ‘data’ functions as a powerful frame for discourse about how knowledge is derived and privileges certain ways of knowing over others. Through its ambiguity, the term can foster a self–perpetuating sensibility that ‘data’ is incontrovertible, something to question the meaning or the veracity of, but not the existence of. This article critically examines the concept of ‘data’ within larger questions of research method and frameworks for scientific inquiry. The current dominance of the term ‘data’ and ‘big data’ in discussions of scientific inquiry as well as everyday advertising focuses our attention on only certain aspects of the research process. The author suggests deliberately decentering the term, to explore nuanced frames for describing the materials, processes, and goals of inquiry.

Author Biography

Annette N. Markham, Aarhus University

Associate Professor of Information Studies, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University Denmark


Affiliate Professor, School of Communication, Loyola University-Chicago 




How to Cite

Markham, A. N. (2013). Undermining ‘data’: A critical examination of a core term in scientific inquiry. First Monday, 18(10). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i10.4868