Data and Power

Data in itself is extremely powerful, and provides us with evidence that can motivate change.  While this is absolutely necessary for progress, we must still consider the “power” that the authors of Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein (2020),  are proposing to examine and challenge. D’Ignazio and Klein (2020) aim to address areas within the field of research by using an intersectional feminist approach. Each chapter further explores one of the seven principles. The seven principles are as follows: examine power, challenge power, elevate emotion and embodiment, rethink binaries and hierarchies, embrace pluralism, consider context, and make labor visible (D’Ignazio & Klein, 2020). Let us further examine the concept of “power;” the ability to influence the outcome of events. For instance, who decides what type of data to collect and who is actually collecting that data? Also, we must consider the purpose for which the data serves.

Research always has a purpose to serve, it is vital to understand what that purpose is. Data is often collected for purposes surrounding community improvement and population health. Receiving feedback from the broader population is critical when ultimately decisions are being made that can lead to advancement. Input from marginalized populations have historically been excluded from societal view. It is crucial that we do not discredit the experiences of any members of society in order to understand society as a whole. When certain populations are factored out of data, whether intentional or not, it becomes difficult to obtain valid results. Results cannot speak for a whole if data has not been collected from underserved populations. We need this information not just to be more informed, but to determine how this data can be applied in a way that promotes change towards a more equitable society for all.