You Say Data, I Say System

Jer Thorp on data systems and how bias, whether intentional or not, affects the representation of that data:

Whenever you look at data — as a spreadsheet or database view or a visualization, you are looking at an artifact of such a system. What this diagram doesn’t capture is the immense branching of choice that happens at each step along the way. [...]

The next time you read a story with the word data in the headline, swap it out with data system. When you see a data visualization, think of it instead as a data system visualization. If the government proposes new policies around personal data, think about them instead as policies about people, and the data systems which they inhabit. Widening your thinking in this fashion will also allow you to engage in broader criticism of data systems and those who are authoring and exercising them.