videoJune 25 2015

Embodied metaphors for talking about data

Sara M. Watson

Databite No. 43

How we think about data — and more importantly what we do with it — will depend on the value systems that our conceptual metaphors capture and reify. Much of the rhetoric surrounding data draws on metaphors that privilege an industrial perspective: “data is the new oil,” “we’re mining the data for insights.” Studying the early adopters of self-tracking technology, Sara M. Watson has identified a set of emerging data metaphors starting from a personal, rather than industrial perspective. In this Databite, Watson explores how we might reframe metaphors for data in a more personal and embodied context to give us a better way to understand our personal relationships and interests in our personal data and its uses.

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Sara M. Watson is an independent writer and technology critic. Sara writes and speaks about emerging issues in the intersection of technology, culture, and society. Her writing appears in The AtlanticWiredThe Washington PostSlateMotherboard, and other publications. She presents at technology conferences around the globe, including SXSW and O’Reilly Strata.

Sara began her career as an enterprise technology analyst at The Research Board (Gartner, Inc.), exploring the implications of technological trends—like cloud computing, collaboration software, and big data—for Fortune 500 CIOs.

Sara has been a fellow and affiliate with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. She holds an MSc in the Social Science of the Internet with distinction from the Oxford Internet Institute, where her award-winning thesis examined the personal data practices of the Quantified Self community. She graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude with a joint degree in English and American literature and film studies. Her interdisciplinary work continues to draw from media studies, science and technology studies, anthropology, and literature.

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