Everyday digital traces

Armstrong, Andrea and Briggs, Jo and Moncur, Wendy and Carey, Daniel Paul and Nicol, Emma and Schafer, Burkhard (2023) Everyday digital traces. Big Data & Society, 10 (2). pp. 1-13. ISSN 2053-9517 (https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517231213827)

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Our research responds to calls for more engagement with everyday personal data. We used a co-designed, fictional persona called Alex Smith to concretise and represent people's online information to help participants (through role-playing) reflect on data and digital traces. Drawing together four fields of scholarly research concerning personal data: digital traces and the digital self, datafication and dataveillance, mundane, everyday data and the data journey – our aim was to advance understandings of personal data by exploring ordinary people's seemingly innocuous digital traces generated through everyday online interactions. Our paper presents three key findings from our analysis: (1) how ordinary people cope with and manage everyday data; (2) the haunting effects and affects of peer-to-peer surveillance and (3) postdigital identities. We argue that greater attention needs to be paid to everyday digital traces – how they are understood, managed and revealed because this has implications for ordinary people, corporate entities and governments. We contribute to a gap in critical data studies literature that calls for further investigations into ordinary people's engagement with data. We also offer a method that can be adapted for and used with different participant groups, which also supports their awareness of cumulative functions of personal data and potential use by un/known actors.