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Quantify Everything: A Dream of a Feminist Data Future, by Amelia Abreu

Stashed in: Women, Big Data!, Quantified Self

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Superb critique of the Quantified Self movement and its presumed universal applicability.

I found this part eye opening:

“Data” has historically been a neglected byproduct of action and interaction, and looking after it has been less a priority than an accident. That data has taken on masculine and technologically essential attributes in recent years is a testament to how quickly and pervasively market semantics can work. For centuries, collecting, caretaking, curating and analyzing data has been the domain of women’s work—look at the histories of librarianship, nursing and programming.

Yet to look through speaker lists for conferences like O’Reilly Strata, you’d be hard-pressed to remember that. The job title of “data scientist” has been invented with this maneuver in mind: a masculine and prestige-boosting rebranding of a type of work that asserts the value of a commodity and elevates the work to a respected status: science.

If data analysis in business is a science, in domestic life, it is a working practice - perhaps even a common art. Everyday data consumption is, I would argue, the most common and largest proportional working data relationship in existence. Like caring, cooking and cleaning, the task of managing data is something you’ll see at work in every household. It starts with money and food, the most banal avenues for data-working. Before she turned two, my daughter mimicked both swiping a credit card and checking the nutritional information panel on a granola bar.

I think about More Work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s 1983 classic on the tradeoffs of home-industrialization. Cowan argues that the nineteenth and twentieth-century introduction of new technological systems for food preparation, clothing, and other forms of housework had the veneer of easing labor and creating comfort. However, they also created an effect of cultural obfuscation by both gendering housework and by delineating it from other forms of industrial labor. Cowan argues that housework is “more characteristic of our society than market work,” as it is the “the first form of work we experience as infants” and “the form of work that the largest proportion of us (to wit, almost all women) identify as the work that will be the principal definition of our adulthood."

I don't quite understand why there aren't more women data scientists.

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