Digital Traces and Bottom-up Data Practices

Stefania Milan


This paper explores the bottom-up data practices enacted by individuals and groups in the context of organized collective action. Conversing with critical media theory, the sociology of social movements and platform studies, it asks how activists largely reliant on social media for their activities leverage datafication per se, and mobilize social-media data in their tactics and narratives. Specifically, it explores how activists make sense of the ways in which social media structure their interactions, and how they exploit these for mobilization. Using the notion of digital traces as a heuristic tool to understand the dynamics between social media platforms and their users, the article reflects on the concurrent materiality and discursiveness of digital traces, and analyses the evolution of political agency vis-à-vis the datafied self. It investigates how digital traces trigger a quest for visibility that is unprecedented in the social movement realm, and how they can function as particular “agency machines”.


datafication, bottom-up data practices, digital traces, political agency

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