For an ethnography of data: research on the social profile of the Brazilian military
The purpose of this article is to show how hard data are not “neutral” or “given”; but are instead embedded in a subjective process of production, maintenance and utilization. We propose to describe this process of “social construction of data” by taking as object data obtained from Brazilian military schools on the social profile of their students. The ethnographic observation of these practices allows us to see how they establish selective principles, illuminating certain dimensions of the institution’s life and obscuring others. Thus, a “data fetishism” is avoided: the tendency to see such data as entities with a life of their own, independent on the subjectivity of the individuals who produced them, maintained them and gave access to them.
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