Critical Data Studies A Cross-College Collaboration

Critical Data Studies Learning Community

The 2019-2020 Critical Data Studies-Data Mine Learning Community was a one of a kind educational community that sought to create tools and methods to help students think critically and engage the public in conversation about the about the role of data in everyday life. It was open to any undergraduate student, regardless of major.

As part of this learning community, students explored the interdisciplinary field of critical data studies (CDS), which addresses the ethical, legal, socio-cultural, epistemological and political aspects of data science, big data and digital infrastructures. Within the CDS-Data Mine Learning Community, particular emphasis was given to debates around technopolitics, such as movements for explainable AI, algorithm and data justice initiatives, and critiques of discriminatory design. We also explored various attempts to disrupt power inequities exacerbated or brought on by a shift to a data economy.

Students had the opportunity to engage in hands-on community-based participatory design research, and to develop models for non-extractive and justice-centered approaches to data collection, sharing and use practices. This may have taken the form of data and design hack-a-thons, directed or independent research or public policy engagement. Opportunities to engage the larger campus community through the monthly Critical Data Studies Open Seminar & Public Lecture Series formed a key component of this learning community.

Members of the 2019-2020 CDS-Data Mine were part of a team — living, studying and, ultimately, performing and critiquing data-focused research together. This included engagement in several collaborative and community-based projects over the course of the year including the CDS Collaborative Glossary and directed research projects with faculty mentors which resulted in public presentations of their work for Purdue's Spring 2020 Office of Undergraduate Research Conference.


The CDS-Data Mine was a collaboration between faculty members from the Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, the Department of Anthropology, African American Studies and the Honors College. We were part of Purdue University’s 2019-2020 Data Mine initiative, which consisted of 20 living, learning communities created to introduce students to data science concepts and deal with real-world problems. The Data Mine was supported by Purdue University’s Integrative Data Science Initiative, which was designed to train students across all majors with the data literacy needed to succeed in a data-driven world.


The dining court in Hillenbrand Hall where students reside as part of the CDS-Data Mine learning community. (Purdue University/Rebecca Wilcox)