About Data & Society
Data & Society is an independent nonprofit research organization. We believe that empirical evidence should directly inform the development and governance of new technology. We study the social implications of data and automation, producing original research to ground informed, evidence-based public debate about emerging technology. We combine academic rigor with creative outreach to connect, convene, and sustain expert and practitioner networks. Since 2014, Data & Society has defined the field with original research and programming to break down disciplinary silos and connect provocative thinkers across sectors. Our work acknowledges that the same innovative technologies and sociotechnical practices that are reconfiguring society – enabling novel modes of interaction, new opportunities for knowledge, and disruptive business practices and paradigms – can be abused to invade privacy, provide new tools of discrimination, and harm individuals and communities.
The intersection of race and data-centric technologies has informed much of our research. An example of recent work includes “Advancing Racial Literacy in Tech,” a report by Mutale Nkonde, Darakhshan Mir, and Jessie Daniels that urges tech companies to adopt racial literacy practices. Our blog publishes leading thinkers who scrutinize the weaponization of technological systems against vulnerable communities, and who analyze xenophobic and racist narratives in health reporting, misinformation and other areas. Our events team supports gatherings on topics such as ethics, equity, transparency, and innovation in machine learning, and also platformed expert speakers on several relevant themes: “discriminatory design” in technology; challenging racist structures that allow data to be wielded as a weapon of immense political influence; and the limits and possibilities for using digital technology to push for racial equity in the United States and across the globe.
Just as we are committed to challenging the power and purpose of technology in society, we must be equally committed to challenging our own biases and shortcomings. We are committed to exploring these issues and learning and growing as an organization. In holding various organization-wide discussions over the past few months, senior leadership acknowledges that we must put forth a valiant and concerted effort to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront. This call for an organizational strategy on DEI and anti-racism – to be built in concert with a more robust research agenda on the intersection of technology and race – are major priorities for our institution.
Data & Society advances public understanding of the social and cultural implications of data-centric technologies and automation. Through interdisciplinary research and field-building, we work to ensure that knowledge guides development and governance of technology. We want to see a future in which the values that inform data-centric technologies are visible and intentionally chosen with respect for human dignity.
Our research and engagement hews to the following values:
- Independence: Independence is the foundation of rigorous empirical research. We select our projects, choose methodologies, and make publishing decisions based on our analysis of the issues at hand. We do not accept funding that would compromise the independence or rigor of our work.
- Integrity: Organizational integrity requires trust, accountability, and transparency. We build trust and accountability through our independent research, our transparent funding relationships and organizational practices, and our inclusive outreach to a wide range of communities and individuals.
- Equity: Individuals and their communities require respect and dignity. We recognize and embrace differences among us, and center these differences because of a fundamental respect for diversity and a desire to challenge existing power relations in data-centric fields. This requires equitable hiring and retention, centering community experiences in our research, and adhering to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all organizational activities.
- Creativity: Non-traditional approaches challenge existing structures of power. We support interdisciplinary work and the fundamental value of creative expression. Externally, we support innovative thinking that engages multiple audiences, especially on concepts that challenge dominant narratives about data-centric technologies. Internally, we enable research and engagement that take risks with practices and output.