Towards a New Politics of Public Information: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?

Today I’m giving a working paper exploring a politics of public information that goes beyond a focus on the disclosure of datasets and looks towards interventions into the data infrastructures through which they are produced.

The paper was co-authored with Tim Davies at the University of Southampton and will be delivered at the Open Data Research Symposium as part of the 3rd International Open Government Data Conference in Ottawa. It draws on research undertaken as part of the EU H2020 funded ROUTE-TO-PA project.

The current version of the working paper is available on the symposium website as well as on SSRN. The abstract and slides are included below.

Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?

Open data advocates and initiatives often focus on the “release”, “publication”, “disclosure” and “opening up” of pre-existing public sector datasets, and the character of this release – for example, through the use of open data licenses or legal waivers, and publication in machine readable formats.

In this paper we seek to highlight and explore other forms of intervention into the information infrastructures that underpin the production of public information, beyond the disclosure of datasets. We explore these issues with reference to a case study on recent advocacy around information about the ownership of companies in the UK, drawing on a mixture of primary data from interviews with practitioners, and secondary data from the literature, mailing list archives, policy and advocacy briefings, consultation responses, press releases, media articles, video recordings, parliamentary transcripts and official announcements.

We will conclude with a discussion of how open data advocates and initiatives might learn from this example, including thoughts on broadening the politics of public information from a focus on the disclosure of datasets to democratic interventions to reshape information infrastructures as socio-technical systems.

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