Big Data and algorithmic systems increasingly shape the way we live, work, consume, engage, and interact. The interplay between individuals, social entities and digital technologies forces our societies to develop new strategies, to reconfigure and renegotiate concepts, structures, and processes. Core values including privacy, autonomy, freedom, self-determination, objectivity, social justice, democracy, and many more are at stake.

In a digitally transformed world, individuals and their communities are challenged to orientate themselves and make decisions in datafied environments. As a response, a number of necessary new skills, literacies, competencies, and motivational aspects have been conceptualised and widely discussed in educational contexts. Examples include “Critical Digital/Data Literacy”, “Algorithmic Thinking”, and “Digital Resilience”. With regard to educational practice, a variety of awareness-raising materials, learning modules, and critical thinking approaches have been and are still being developed.

However, empowering citizens and their communities through institutional and self-education (“Bildung”1) can only constitute one dimension in the process of shaping a socially responsible and sustainable digital society. Rather, this process must be based on and interlinked with regulatory as well as political strategies. All educational endeavours to empower the individual and to strengthen the sovereignty of citizens in this context have an integral social, societal and therefore political impetus.

1 : The German concept of Bildung refers to personal development and self-education throughout one’s life. It differs from a more specific understanding of ‘education’ that addresses defined goals in a utilitarian sense.

Selected academic approaches to critical (big) data literacy:

Carmi, E. et al. 2020. Data citizenship: rethinking data literacy in the age of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation. Internet Policy Review 9(2).

D’Ignazio, C. and Bhargava, R. 2015. Approaches to Building Big Data Literacy. In: Proceedings of the Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange Conference. New York City, USA.

Gapski, H., Tekster, T. and Elias, M. 2018. Bildung für und über Big Data. ABIDA report.

Pangrazio, L. and Sefton-Green, J. 2020. The social utility of ‘data literacy’. Learning, Media and Technology 45(2), pp. 208–220.

Pangrazio, L. and Selwyn, N. 2019. ‘Personal data literacies’: A critical literacies approach to enhancing understandings of personal digital data. New Media & Society 21(2), pp. 419–437.

Pötzsch, H. 2019. Critical Digital Literacy: Technology in Education Beyond Issues of User Competence and Labour-Market Qualifications. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 17(2), pp. 221–240.

Sander, I. 2020. What is critical big data literacy and how can it be implemented? Internet Policy Review 9(2).

Background information & online data literacy resources for practitioners:

Critically commented guide to 40 online data literacy tools

German dossier: big data and political education

Guidebook to data literacy tools for advancing data justice

Introduction “Big Data Basics” in German & overview of German data literacy tools

Toolkits & guides collected by the Me & My Big Data project

Understanding risks and harms around big data

Data Literacy in the Real World” – extensive handbook for teachers