The politics of measurement and action

Kathleen H. Pine, Max Liboiron

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

105 Scopus citations


Contemporary decisions about the management of populations, public services, security, and the environment are increasingly made through knowledge gleaned from 'big data' and its attendant infrastructures and algorithms. Though often described as 'raw,' this data is produced by techniques of measurement that are imbued with judgments and values that dictate what is counted and what is not, what is considered the best unit of measurement, and how different things are grouped together and "made" into a measureable entity. In this paper, we analyze these politics of measurement and how they relate to action through two case studies involving high stake public health measurements where experts intentionally leverage measurement to change definitions of harm and health. That is, they use measurement for activism. The case studies offer a framework for thinking about of how the politics of measurement are present in user interfaces. It is usually assumed that the human element has been scrubbed from the database and that significant political and subjective interventions come from the analysis or use of data after the fact. Instead, we argue that human-computer interactions start before the data reaches the computer because various measurement interfaces are the invisible premise of data and databases, and these measurements are political.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCHI 2015 - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Subtitle of host publicationCrossings
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450331456
StatePublished - Apr 18 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015 - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Apr 18 2015Apr 23 2015

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


Other33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


  • Data
  • Evaluation
  • Measurement
  • Politics
  • Quantification
  • Science and technology studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


Dive into the research topics of 'The politics of measurement and action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this