Critical Scholarly Communication

Feminist Data Manifest-No: A Collective Reading

Event Recap

Data & Society, an independent, nonprofit research institute in NYC whose mission is to “advance public understanding of the social implications of data-centric technologies and automation,” hosted their first collective reading on the Feminist Data Manifest-No on February 5th. The Feminist Data Manifest-No, in laying a groundwork for ethical research practices, seemed like a worthy addition to the PSMF’s Critical Scholarly Communication project’s online research guide, which seeks to compile and disseminate digital scholarly communication from a critical perspective, so I attended the event and wrote up a brief recap below.

Photo from the first collective reading of the “Feminist Data Manifest-No” at Data & Society on February 5th, 2020.

The gathering felt casual and comfortable, with people lounging on sofas and chairs (see image above), rather than sitting upright in rows of plastic chairs. The event was organized into three straight-forward parts: an introduction, public reading of ten declarations from the Feminist Data Manifest-No, and Q&A Session.

I. Introduction

Presenters Marika Cifor (University of Washington – Seattle), Patricia Garcia (University of Michigan – Ann Arbor), and Anita Say Chan (Data & Society) introduced the Feminist Data Manifest-No, a product of a collaborative brainstorming session during a “Feminist Data Studies Workshop” in August 2019, which brought together ten feminist scholars across various disciplines. These co-authors include Marika Cifor, Patricia Garcia, Anita Say, TL Cowan, Jasmine Rault, Tonia Sutherland, Jennifer Rode, Anna Lauren Hoffman, Nilofar Salehi, and Lisa Nakamura.

The manifesto has at its core the centralizing theme of the “Act of Refusal,” which embodies feminist history and struggles, and presents over thirty declarations which seek to promote and create fair, equal, and safe data practices for everyone. The creators of the Feminist Data Manifest-No further define their mission on their website:

“Our refusals and commitments together demand that data be acknowledged as at once an interpretation and in need of interpretation. Data can be a check-in, a story, an experience or set of experiences, and a resource to begin and continue dialogue. It can – and should always – resist reduction. Data is a thing, a process, and a relationship we make and put to use. We can make it and use it differently.”


The Feminist Data Manifest-No is licensed through Creative Commons, a platform which the organizers feel will encourage the document to be a living product and which will engender additional contributions from others. 

II. Public Reading of the Feminist Data Manifest-No

Ten declarations from the Feminist Data Manifest-No, which had been handed out to attendees before the event started, were read out loud by the three presenters, as well as by Anuli Akanegbu (PhD student in NYU’s Sociocultural Anthropology Department), Rona Akbari (writer and producer), Sareeta Amrute (Director of Research at Data & Society), Siera Dissmore (Program Manager of Reserach at Data & Society), Emily Drabinski (Associate Professor and Critical Pedagogy Librarian at The Gradaute Center, CUNY), Tracy Fenix (Artist+ Registry & Archive Associate at Visual AIDS), and Danya Glabau (Visiting Industry Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Science and Technology Studies program at the NYU Department of Technology).

Handout from the collective reading on February 5th, 2020 at Data & Society; ten declarations from the Feminist Data Manifest-No.

III. Q&A Session

The Question-and-Answer section made up the majority of the event, which is perhaps reflective of the Feminist Data Manifest-No’s mission to include and integrate the public, creating a set of ethical practices both by and for the people.

Below, I have paraphrased some of the questions and comments posed by the audience in response to the reading of the ten above declarations:

  1. Question: Some of the language used in the Feminist Data Manifest-No, such as “imbricate” seems inaccessible to the public–if the goal of these declarations is in part to support those who are underrepresented or oppressed, then shouldn’t a more simple vocabulary be employed?

    Answer: We feel that we should not be making generalizations about the education level of the “general public”; the document should serve as a provocation, imploring one to ask of oneself, “What does this manifesto mean for me?”

  2. Comment: In the wake of all the technological advances in our era, it is easy to ignore the reach of one’s own voice and difficult to control its potential amplification. We need to be centering this Feminist Data Manifest-No around our rights as a tangible, human body.

  3. Comment: Venture capitalists would not be interested in projects like this, and therefore it would be difficult to achieve the proper funding and reach.

  4. Question: Is the title “Feminist Data Manifesto-No” a little restrictive? Specifically, does the word “feminist” alienate others?

  5. Comment: As a lawyer, I am shocked by the amount of private data we collect and hold onto in perpetuity. I have witnessed that this data only serves to harm the clients it is meant to protect. We should support movements like “Ban The Box.”

  6. Question: Should we be concerned with the collection and saving of data that isn’t ours?

Overall, the event served to raise more questions than it answered, but it was nevertheless an important–and necessary–conversation starter. How these declarations will be translated into action remains unclear at this point in time, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the people who share and contribute to the Feminist Data Manifest-No to create tangible changes in data practices. We hope that by spreading awareness of this resource on Social Mediums, the manifesto will receive a stronger voice.


Streamlining Image Posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have different dimensional requirements or optimization guidelines for posting images on their various feeds, which can make for time-consuming work if one needs to create 3+ versions of the same photo or poster. This blog post will talk about a strategy for streamlining this process by creating one  “universally functional” image file.

From the Web

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, recently released an op-ed in The New York Times, “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook,” expressing concern about the monopolistic nature of Facebook and the power wielded by Mark Zuckerberg.

Leapfrogging off concerns raised about Facebook’s recent mistakes, including “the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention,” Hughes urges for more than governmental oversight over the company: he suggests that the F.T.C. and Justice Department break up Facebook into multiple companies (and thus undoing its acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp).

He justifies this call to action based on the need to create a competitive market (which cannot be achieved organically due to the enormous amount of capital needed to “take on” Facebook) and to engender more governmental oversight over sensitive privacy and “free speech” policies, thus curbing Zuckerberg’s lone decision-making as majority share holder.

While Hughes defends Zuckerberg’s character, he questions whether any one person should be allowed so much control over billions of people. And to that end, he leaves us to ponder several important questions, such as “Should we be worried that Facebook owns all of our private conversations and photos?”; “To what extend is the company’s knowledge about our interests invasive?”; and “Is Facebook really ‘free’ or do we pay for it with our time and data?”

Read the full article here: “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook”

A counter-argument in the NYT by Nick Clergg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, can be found here: “Breaking Up Facebook Is Not the Answer”

Best Practices

How to advertise effectively on Facebook

The Social Mediums were recently allocated a budget to advertise for our respective GC departments on social media, with a current focus on Facebook. Although there are some ethical concerns to consider about interacting with Facebook’s paid advertising platform, such as issues of data collection, we came to the conclusion that as long as we are using Facebook as a tool to disseminate information, we might as well maximize our returns. And this new strategy has proven fruitful: we have seen a tremendous increase in post engagement and page likes since reinstating paid advertisement. This post will talk about some strategies for effectively targeting your desired audience on Facebook ad posts.

— The Social Mediums