Article Preview: Societal Self-observation in the Time of Datafication


Heimstädt, M. (2015), Societal Self-observation in the Time of Datafication: Interfunctional Analysis of the Chilean Open Data Web Portal, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, Vol. 22 No. 4.

A corrected proof available here.

Abstract: Datafication, the technological development that emerged out of computerization and global interconnectedness, has spawned new forms of societal self-observations. In the present article I turn to the example of Open Data web portals—specialized websites that make large amounts of governmental datasets publicly available—to show how they relate to the status quo of social research on functional differentiation. For my analysis of the Chilean Portal de Datos Públicos I developed a method to link metadata categories from the web portal to a hard-core list of ten function systems. My results confirm literature, which finds economized or politicized forms of societal self-description. Moreover the results are in line with studies that show the vanishing role of religion. Interestingly, my study finds health to be of high importance—I might even speak of a “healthized” self-observation—which I argue is at odds with a negligible representation of the function system “sport” within the self-observation. For future interfunctional social research in the time of datafication, I recommend sharpening the empirical approach by exploring emerging text-as- data methods.

Keywords: Datafication, functional differentiation, interfunctional analysis, self-observation, social systems, Open Data