Critical is not political

The need to (re)politicize data literacy


  • Fieke Jansen Cardiff University



big data, data literacy, surveillance, privacy, discrimination, justice, critical social science, critical data studies


Data literacy is slowly becoming a more prominent feature of contemporary society. Some argue that people need to obtain new competencies to mitigate and engage with the multiplicity of ways in which they are affected by data. Literacy as such is positioned as a pathway towards empowerment, enable people to make informed choices about their data environment and increasing their ability to actively participate in the discussion that determines the socio-technical systems that will impact their lives. In this article, I will argue that we need to account for the externalities that emerge from the mere act of centring data in a literacy approach and unpack the assumptions that underpin the concept. To advance the argument that data literacy needs to be (re)politicize, both in terms of the perceived competencies need in a data society and the 'neutrality of the practice in itself. To ensure that the audience will have more thoughtful and actionable pathways forward data literacy should learn from other disciplines that have a more thorough analysis of dismantling power structures, engaging with inequality and encouraging political participation.

Fieke Jansen




How to Cite

Jansen, F. (2021). Critical is not political: The need to (re)politicize data literacy., 17(2).