“It ain’t a compliment”: Feminist data visualisation and digital street harassment advocacy

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In an era of datafication, data visualisation is playing an increasing role in civic meaning-making processes. However, the conventions of data visualisation have been criticised for their reductiveness and rhetoric of neutrality and there have been recent efforts to develop feminist principles for designing data visualisations that are compatible with feminist epistemologies. In this article, we aim to examine how data visualisation is used in feminist activism and by feminist activists. Drawing on the example of digital street harassment activism, we analyse how street harassment is visualised in and through a selection of prominent activist social media accounts. We consider the platform affordances utilised by activists, and how these are harnessed in making street harassment ‘knowable'. Moreover, we critically interrogate which and whose experiences are ‘knowable’ via digital techniques, and what remains obscured and silenced. In analysing digital feminist activists’ practices, we argue that what constitutes ‘data visualisation’ itself must be situated within feminist epistemologies and praxis that centre lived experience as the starting point for knowledge production. Such an approach challenges and disrupts normative constructions of what constitutes data visualisation. Our findings demonstrate how feminist activists are adopting ‘traditional’ practices of speaking out and consciousness-raising to the digital sphere in the creation of a range of visualisations that represent the issue of street harassment. We consider the efficacy of these visualisations for achieving their intended purpose and how they might translate to policy and government responses, if this is indeed their goal. Further, we document a tension between feminist epistemologies and the prevailing logic of datafication or dataism and note how in an attempt to unite the two, some digital feminist activism has contributed to reproducing existing power structures, raising concerning implications at the policy level.




Fileborn, B., & Trott, V. (2021). “It ain’t a compliment”: Feminist data visualisation and digital street harassment advocacy. Convergence. https://doi.org/10.1177/13548565211045536

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