Data(-)Based Ambivalence Regarding NYC 311 Data Infrastructure

Lindsay Poirier. 2021. "Data(-)Based Ambivalence Regarding NYC 311 Data Infrastructure." Cultural Studies 0(0), 1--28. Routledge.

In New York City, data documenting complaints made to 311 - the city's municipal 'customer service' agency - are increasingly being analyzed by city agencies, politicians, activists, and residents to make sense of urban quality of life. This article examines the infrastructural and socio-cultural conditions that have shaped public dispositions regarding 311 data's representativeness. It argues that while data-based metrics have become a privileged form of knowing in NYC governance, the databased infrastructural form of 311 inevitably sidelines certain people and problems. As communities throughout NYC have grappled with this tension, many New Yorkers have become increasingly ambivalent about the data's value in reporting urban issues. Data(-)based ambivalence troubles the power imbalances that privilege quantitative ways of knowing over other ways of knowing, prompting communities to reposition data(-)based representations as rhetorical tools instead of objective or unbiased ones.

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