On SAGE Insight: Doing data differently? Developing personal data tactics and strategies amongst young mobile media users

From Big Data & Society

The proliferation of mobile devices and social media platforms has led to rapid growth in the generation of ‘personal data’ relating to individual users. While users consciously volunteer personal data, many forms of data are generated without an individual’s awareness or understanding of where, how or why the data is being collected and re-appropriated. Facebook offers third party advertisers options to target particular audiences and demographics by sharing a user’s profile data specifying location, age, gender and languages. This data can also be accompanied by ‘detailed information’ on what a user shared on their timelines, the apps they use, the advertisements they click on, as well as applications and activities they engage with, such as their purchase history. This paper contributes to a growing literature seeking to explore data agency amongst ordinary users – seeking to mitigate what is termed as ‘technological unconscious’ in favor of moving towards the ‘conscious user’. It points to the need to further refine understandings of the broader context of young people’s everyday lives and data practices.


Large amounts of personal data are generated through young people’s engagements with mobile media, with these data increasingly (re)used by advertisers, content developers and other third parties to profile, predict and position individuals. This has prompted growing concerns over the ability of mobile medi2a users to develop informed stances towards how and why their data is being used, i.e. to build ‘conscious’ and/or ‘resistant’ forms of ‘data agency’. This paper explores ways of developing the critical consciousness and resistant practices of young mobile media users towards personal data. Drawing on research with 27 young people (aged 13–17 years), the paper describes efforts to make representations of third party use of personal data openly available as a basis from which to develop data-savvy tactics and strategies. The results of these interventions – while only partially successful – offer valuable insights into the technical, social and cultural issues that shape young people’s engagement with personal data. The paper concludes by considering how concerns over data agency might be better aligned with the realities of young people’s mobile media use.

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Article details

Doing data differently? Developing personal data tactics and strategies amongst young mobile media users
Neil Selwyn, Luci Pangrazio
First Published March 15, 2018
DOI: 10.1177/2053951718765021
From Big Data & Society


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