Project Rationale

I had the privilege of studying with notable posthuman philosophers Rosi Braidotti and Kate Hayles, whose teachings have been instrumental in shaping my worldview. I am a cis-gendered, heterosexual white man with the advantage of tenure at a New England university. I’m acutely aware that these aspects of my identity come with certain privileges and biases.

My education and mentorship in the field of posthumanism—a philosophy that delves into the complex interplay between technology, identity, and the human experience—inform much of my professional and personal life. In simpler terms, my work is driven by a fascination with how humans and technology interact, particularly in shaping our identities. A commitment to feminist ethics provides another critical layer to my approach, enriching my teaching, research, and overall professional practice.

The concept of Becoming is core to my intellectual endeavors. In layman’s terms, Becoming means embracing continual change and acknowledging the complex network of connections that make up our lives. This philosophy encourages us to move beyond societal labels or predefined categories. I realize that my identity and perspective are in constant flux, shaped by a myriad of interactions and experiences.

This evolving journey—this process of Becoming—shapes my goal of fostering a learning environment that is inclusive, empathetic, and encourages critical engagement.

I am committed to a continual process of learning and unlearning. The lens through which I see the world isn’t fixed; it’s fluid, continually molded by an ever-changing landscape of ideas and experiences . What you read here is merely a snapshot, a temporary capture of my current understanding, always subject to future transformation.

I decided to create this book because there is very little existing work that explores how data impacts different disciplines, and almost none written with an undergraduate audience in mind. This stands in stark contrast to the vast resources dedicated to the impacts of data across society more broadly.

As I was developing a new course on the topic of Data & Society that would also meet general education requirements for my campus, I wanted students to understand how data is impacting and re-shaping the specific career fields in which they will be working. One of the things that I’ve discovered about teaching on topics of data and privacy over the years is that it is very important to make the issues personal for students, as this helps drive a connection and interest with the issues being discussed. One of the ways I wanted to do that in this course was to allow students to better understand how data is being used in their future career fields, while also understanding the ethical challenges associated with those uses.

Unfortunately, there were no resources like this already available, not even in a way that could be cobbled together from multiple different sources. This inspired me to apply for a ROTEL grant that would allow me to collaborate with my students to create this resource as part of our learning experience together. By having students select their own lens through which to write about data, they were able to differentiate their learning and make it personal. One student, in an informal reflection, noted that they enjoyed that they “were allowed to look into what we were interested in through the book chapter.”

It was important to me to make this resource available as an OER because it can address an important void in the resources available as classes like this become more common. Further, I believe it’s valuable that this book continues to be updated and expanded. My hope is  that students in my future classes, as well as other classes that adopt this resource, can see it as an ongoing project that will happily accept the addition of new chapters and updates to those already existing as the field of data studies continues to expand. Ideally, as it continues to grow, students from an even wider variety of fields will be able to find their disciplines represented in these pages and instructors can choose the most relevant sections to assign in their own courses, perhaps in combination with other articles, podcasts, and case studies. For that reason, I’ve included an additional suggested reading/viewing/listening list at the end of the text that can provide additional content options.