Digital data governance: frameworks, technologies and controversies

This project addresses global cooperation in a specific, yet crucial, corner of the Internet: digital data. Digital data governance has become an increasingly pressing issue in policy and academic debates. Both ‘digital data’ and ‘governance’ are open and contested notions, theoretically as well as practically.

The project brings together scholars working on data governance across disciplines and areas of activity in fostering interdisciplinary discussion on issues of global data cooperation. In doing so, it approaches data governance in the digital space as fundamentally a polycentric issue. Polycentric governance involves different actor constellations operating with multiple rationalities, normative orientations, ethical concerns, technologies, institutional arrangements (Gadinger, Scholte, forthcoming). The value of understanding digital data governance from this perspective is subject to integrate different modes of knowledge, uses and interpretations, both from scholarly and disciplinary perspectives. This generates more nuanced understandings of how data is both governed and itself governs. The overlapping relations between governance of data and governance by data in and across levels of authority are key to the discussions.  Moreover, the challenges that adaptive and rapidly expanding qualities of data pose for understanding global governance in and of complex socio-technical systems as they evolve in unpredictable manners is a key consideration. In particular, the kinds of agency and independence that a relational view of data governing itself orders in relation to other data are considered.

Two pivotal questions that address the direction of the work are:

  • How can the intricacies of global data governance be understood as they are rapidly evolving across multiple, overlapping, (in)formal spaces and activities?
  • How might forms of more legitimate global cooperation in data governance be fostered when cooperation already exists in ways that are poorly understood (or understood in siloed manners across academic disciplines)?