Thinking With Care About Personal Data Profiling: A More-Than-Human Approach

Deborah Lupton


People’s understandings and practices related to their digitized personal information are urgent topics of social inquiry in an increasingly datafied world. This article draws on findings from an Australian qualitative study in which the stimulus of the “data persona” and an online platform were used to engage participants’ social imaginaries concerning how data profiling can benefit or harm them and to what extent they care about their personal data. The findings were theorized by thinking with more-than-human scholarship and theories of care. The study found that although these participants were well aware of data profiling and algorithmic processes such as those used for targeted advertising, most did not feel personally vulnerable to harms or risks. The participants suggested that datafication and dataveillance could never access their “real selves.” Data profiling was predominantly viewed as helpful in providing better customization. In some situations, however, data profiling and related data processing could be selective, fragmentary, and dehumanizing. The article ends with discussion of the broader implications of the study’s findings for theorizing and understanding human–data relations.


digital data, personal data, data profiling, selfhood, more-than-human theory

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