The AI + Society Initiative and the Centre for Law Technology and Society is delighted to announce the publication of The Immaculate Conception of Data: Agribusiness, Activists, and Their Shared Politics of the Future, written by Faculty Member Dr. Kelly Bronson, and published by McGill-Queen's University Press.
Every new tractor now contains built-in sensors that collect data and stream them to cloud-based infrastructures. The agribusinesses that use these data, like seed and chemical companies, are a form of “big tech” commerce operating alongside firms like Google and Facebook.
The Immaculate Conception of Data peeks behind the secretive legal agreements surrounding agricultural big data to trace how it is used and with what consequences. Agribusinesses are among the oldest oligopoly corporations in the world, and their concentration gives them an advantage over other food system actors. Dr. Kelly Bronson explores what happens when big data get caught up in pre-existing arrangements of power. Her richly ethnographic account details the work of corporate scientists, farmers using the data, and activist “hackers” building open-source data platforms. Actors working in private and public contexts have divergent views of whom new technology is for, how it should be developed, and what kinds of agriculture it should support. Surprisingly, despite their differences, these groups share a way of speaking about data and the value of data for the future. Bronson calls this the immaculate conception of data, arguing that this phenomenon is a dangerous framework for imagining big data and what it might do for society.
Drawing our attention to agriculture as an important new site for big tech criticism, The Immaculate Conception of Data uniquely bridges science and technology studies, critical data studies, and food studies, bringing to light salient issues related to data justice and a sustainable food system.
The book is available for pre-order with McGill-Queen's University Press
This book is part of the research on AI and Environment led by Dr. Bronson as part of the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue’s Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments, hosted by the AI + Society Initiative. You can learn more about our research program here.