Conceptualising critical data literacies for civil society organisations: agency, care, and social responsibility

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article develops a sociotechnical conceptualisation of data literacies in relation to citizens’ data practices: highlighting the agentic, contextual, critical, and social aspects of data skills and competencies, it frames data literacies as both discursive and material. In order for civil society organisations to make sense of big, small, open and other data they need multiple skills, beyond the technical; it is therefore unhelpful to talk about a single form of data literacy. It is more helpful to consider how such literacies in the plural develop within the material social contexts of civic cultures, and how they can progress in tandem with critical awareness about the power aspects of data, so they can become central tenets of data advocacy. The primary purpose of the article is to move forward the debate around how to conceptualise data literacy – and to question how far the concept is useful in the first
place. The article draws on empirical research and starts from the premise that it is imperative to develop frameworks and training schemes that enable civil society actors and publics more generally to use open data, to make data more relevant to
stakeholders, and to support their engagement in policy debates around datafication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages22
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Information Communication and Society on 03/03/2020, available online:


  • big data
  • critical data studies
  • data practices
  • data activism
  • civil society organisations
  • data literacy

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