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Sexual datafication

This proposal for a special issue in the journal of Big Data & Society explores the concept of sexual datafication: the relationship between big data and the development of gender and sexuality in the twenty-first century (Saunders, 2020). Urgent contemporary research in fields such as digital humanities, sociology and public health have examined the socio-political impact and ethical implications of big data (Kitchin 2013; Zwitter 2014; Mittelstadt and Floridi 2015; Daniels, Gregory and Cottom 2017; Snyder and Zhou 2019). This special issue will be the first to focus on how big data collection – conducted by governments, corporations and medical institutions – takes place specifically in relation to the gendered and sexual body. It asks questions regarding, for example, how big data is deployed in international philanthropic initiatives fighting for women’s human rights; the problems and value of big data in understanding particular health needs of LGBTQ+ communities; and the new ways in which ‘sex tech’ and dating and fertility applications gather biomedical and socio-sexual information on populations. This special issue seeks to answer questions about how big data intersects with gender and sexuality from an international perspective, critically engaging with the varied objectives and ethical ramifications of big data collection taking place in different continents and cultures. The overarching goal of this special issue is to explore the most significant ways in which sexual datafication has become central to the power relations and biopolitics of the gendered body in the digital age. It also asserts the fundamentally interdisciplinary nature of sexual datafication as a new area of study, and therefore invites scholars from disciplines including the Medical Humanities, (Digital) Sociology, Disability Studies, Digital Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Political Economics, Gender Studies, and Cultural and Media Studies.

This special issue invites proposals on the following topics, but is not limited to these:

  • Big data as twenty-first century sexology
  • The role of big data in sexual health provision and education
  • Datafication in the medical sector, especially in relation to LGBTQ+ service users
  • Fertility applications
  • Crip sexuality and gender in relation to digital technologies and big data
  • Dating applications
  • Sexual technologies such as smart vibrators and AI sex robots
  • The gender politics of data visualisation
  • Algorithms in relation to the gathering of big data connected to gender and/or sexuality
  • Datafication initiatives connected to gender and/or sexuality in the digital South
  • The political and cultural implications of big data connected to specific initiatives such as UN Women Data Hub
  • New materialism and the gendered body
  • Datafication and embodiment

Please submit your abstract and a short bio to Rebecca Saunders at r.i.saunders2 (at) hud.ac.uk by Friday 30th October 2020.