DATA STORIES: EXPLORING THE FUNCTION OF FICTION IN PARSING THE WORLDS OF NETWORKED DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

A GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH PROJECT, FUNDED BY THE IRISH RESEARCH COUNCIL (2018-21)

Sonnet, written by a contributor to the second Engineering Fictions session with the Building City Dashboards team at MUSSI, February 2019.

This project explores how engaging with processes of fiction can help to parse imaginaries, lived realities and power relations of networked digital worlds. The primary method of inquiry here is a research-creation writing workshop called Engineering Fictions.

The research is based at Maynooth University and engages with the Building City Dashboards (BCD) team under the guidance of Prof. Rob Kitchin. Other research participants and collaborators include members of the Orthogonal Methods Group (OMG) at CONNECT, and other interested individuals from the public.

The project has so far hosted a series of four research-creation workshops called Orienteering Fictions (June 2019) in collaboration with the Russel Library at Maynooth University, the BCD team and OMG CONNECT.

From Sept-Nov 2020, I’ll be running another four part series of Engineering Fictions workshops in collaboration with the team from Policing Digital Futures in Scotland. This engagement will involve two writing workshops and two public reading groups exploring themes of online state surveillance and policing against the backdrop of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

While this research began with an intention to engage in participant observation with the Building City Dashboards project, the reality of the process of research has led me to a higher-level focus: to understand and translate the research-creation methodology of Engineering Fictions. So, what began as a long list has now narrowed to just a few interrelated questions:

What can Engineering Fictions actually do?

Can this methodology help to generate nuanced insights and urgent questions on the actually existing and lived realities, imaginaries and power relations of networked digital technologies in peoples lives?

Can this methodology produce compelling artefacts to foster democratic conversations and political inquiry?

If so, How? Is this a methodology that can be shared and replicated? (And is it actually a methodology… or is it a creative practice that has research value?)

And if not, why not?