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Pré-conférence IAMCR 2023

juillet 7

Thinking and acting with data: communication and societal issues

July 7th 2023, Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3

Programme en françaisProgramme en anglais

General presentation

For the past fifteen years, digital data and their algorithmic processing has been omnipresent within the public sphere, in a context defined on the one hand by a growing appropriation of data by public authorities following the Open Data movement (started by the Obama administration in 2009) and on the other hand by the multiple scandals linked to the exploitation of big data (in particular Cambridge Analytica in 2018). Beyond controversies and media discourse, the datafication of social life (van Djick, 2014) is producing growing injunctions addressed to organizations, collectives or individuals to mobilize data to address societal issues. This pre-conference proposes to study the way data is processed to both think and act in three areas: territories, culture and health. These sectors are grappling with challenges that question our ways of inhabiting the planet, and data can both help “solving” those issues and understand it from a new perspective. The presentations will show how info-communicational approaches are particularly useful to study data in context, by jointly taking into account the socio-technical mediations of data infrastructures (Denis, 2018) and the social and symbolic mediations that accompany data practices. This will provide an opportunity to question the processes of knowledge production and representations through these practices (Severo, 2021).

This main theme will be explored through 3 panels: 

Data and territories

The use of data by public authorities, both within the various departments/agencies to guide decision-making and support territorial governance, and through open data portals in which the datasets are intended for citizen reuse, contributes to renewed practices and imaginaries of urban spaces (Jeanneret 2019). For a long time, data have accompanied the emergence of modern States (i.e. censuses or cartography, Martin, 2020), but the recent datafication makes it a major issue. Data feeds urban innovation projects and reconfigures the representations and expectations towards the inhabitants of the territories, who are considered both as citizens and as users of those spaces (Millerand et al, forthcoming). Data is also the subject of political tensions, for example when they are mobilized by activists who use them to develop competing visions of the territory.

Data and culture

From the Mona Lisa database to the Google Arts & Culture website, through collaborative databases, culture is made accessible and re-presented through data and metadata. Cultural data is transforming mediation processes, and new infrastructures provide an opportunity to redistribute relations between cultural actors and publics. Practices, such as participation or collaboration, and devices, which allow collection and visualisation, are evolving through the use of new media. This dynamic is questioning how production of data on and for culture is changing the ways in which audiences are engaged and the ways in which knowledge is organised (Bonaccorsi, 2019).

Data and health

The digitization of the health sector, both in the field of care (prevention) and cure (treatment), relies heavily on the production of data: connected health objects and applications quantify personal data, the development of AI in medical diagnosis exploits great numbers of diagnoses, public policies are thought of in terms of percentage of the population, and the pooling of this data in vast spaces of deposit and sharing represents an unprecedented resource for research. A phenomenon of re-industrialization of the sector, opening up to private interests, is then played out around health data. 

Bonaccorsi J. et Tardy C. (2019), « Analyser les données urbaines comme de nouvelles cultures de savoirs », Questions de communication, 36, 7-23.

Collet, L., Durampart, M., Heiser, L. et Picard, L. (2021), « Enjeux expérientiels de l’utilisation de l’IA en anatomopathologie », Communiquer [En ligne], 33.

Denis J. (2018), Le Travail invisible des données. Éléments pour une sociologie des infrastructures scripturales, Paris, Presses des Mines, 206 pages.

Jeanneret, Y. (2019), « L’urbanité, c’est là et ça va donner. Le motif de la donnée dans le représentations de la ville ». Questions de communication, 36, 25‑42.

Martin, O. ( 2020), L’empire des chiffres. Paris: Armand Colin. Severo M. (2021), L’impératif participatif. Institutions culturelles, amateurs et plateformes, INA Editions.

Millerand, F. et al, « Les publics imaginés de l’ouverture des données publiques au niveau municipal : à la recherche du citoyen « ordinaire » », Les Enjeux de l’information et de la communication, dossier 2023, à paraître.

Van Dijck J. (2014), “Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: Big Data between scientific paradigm and ideology”. Surveillance & Society 12(2): 197-208.


Date :
juillet 7


Laurent Collet


Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3