Date(s) - 03/11/2020
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


3910 15th Ave NE
Seattle WA

As part of the Data Then and Now seminar series, Annette Markham from Aarhus University, Denmark will be presenting a lecture called “‘Never use the word data!’: Situating ‘data’ in the 1980s-1990s history of the the interpretive turn in sociology.” Please join us for Markham’s lecture on March 11th, 2020 from 4:00-5:00 PM in the Seminar Room of the WRF Data Science Studio.

For at least two decades in the late 20th century, there was a strong trend among scholars associate with the ‘interpretive turn’ or ‘linguistic turn’ to shift away from the concept of ‘data’. Many of us trained in 1980s and 1990s epistemologies of interpretive sociology in the US, for example, were told directly by our teachers and editors, “Never use the word data!” This terminological resistance followed the logic of the linguistic turn, that our everyday language choices shaped social reality. The non-data effort seemed successful, but then the early 2000s backlash against the (mis)perceived relativism of postmodernism happened. In this talk, I contend that this broad return to empiricism, or what funders and policymakers called ‘evidence based findings’, along with the subsequent focus on digital objects and big data, has effectively obscured the detailed efforts of scholars associated with the interpretive turn in the 80s and 90s, especially outside the United States. After briefly sketching this history, I discuss how the definitional parameters for what counts as data has continually plagued qualitative researchers. For many, the stakes of winning or losing this debate over the matter of a small word is paramount.

Annette Markham (PhD, Organizational Studies, Purdue University) researches the interpersonal and social impacts of datafication through a critical ethnographic and symbolic interactionist lens. She is well known for developing innovative methods and ethics for studying digital culture. Annette is professor of information studies and digital design at Aarhus University, Denmark.

The Data Then and Now seminar series explores the social and organizational history of data and data practices in order to better understand the current data-intensive moment through its antecedents and continuities. It features invited speakers from across the country and around the world. For more information, please visit the Data Then and Now web page.