Keynote: Doing Engaged Research on Data and Algorithms: politics, pitfalls, open questions

Tuesday, 28 November, 2023
09:30-10:30 Sitzungssaal

Stefania Milan, University of Amsterdam
Chair: Katja Mayer

We know by now that the advance of the datafied society alters and even erodes citizen agency. Studying grassroots practices of engagement with data and algorithms as well as communities at the margins calls for an approach to research in the sociotechnical that takes sides. Engaged research is an approach that, without departing from systematic, evidence-based, social science research, seeks to make a difference also beyond the academic community. It interrogates the impact that our empirical inquiry might have on people and community on the ground, and asks whether and how we can contribute to their goals. Among others, it asks how to make ‘research with’ rather than merely ‘research about’, and what is equitable collaboration (co-labor). This talk takes stock of two decades of variably successful attempts to do engaged research at the intersection of people, information, and technology. It reviews the politics of engaged research, its potential and added value, but reflects also on the pitfalls and the open questions.

Bio: Stefania Milan ( works at the intersection of participation, technology, and governance, with emphasis on infrastructure and agency. She is Professor of Critical Data Studies at the University of Amsterdam, affiliated with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (Harvard University) and the School of Transnational Governance (European University Institute). Currently, Stefania leads the project “Citizenship and standard-setting in digital networks” (, funded by the Dutch Research Council. In 2015-2021 she was the Principal Investigator of DATACTIVE ( and of the Algorithms Exposed (ALEX) project (, both funded by the European Research Council. In 2017, she co-founded the Big Data from the South Research Initiative, investigating the impact of datafication and surveillance on communities at the margins. Stefania holds a PhD in Political and Social Science from the European University Institute. Prior to joining the University of Amsterdam, she worked at, among others, the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, Tilburg University, and the Central European University. Stefania is the author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013/2016), co-author of Media/Society (Sage, 2011), and co-editor of COVID-19 from the Margins. Pandemic Invisibilities, Policies and Resistance in the Datafied Society (Institute of Network Cultures, 2021, download). She is currently preparing a monograph on data activism for Sage. Outside office hours, she loves cycling, boxing, and mountaineering.

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