Databases of dignity: the politics of open data in post revolutionary Ukraine

Date created: 
Open data
Social movement
Critical theory of technology
Spaces of convergence

In 2014, Ukraine experienced its most violent and dramatic event since the 1991 independence. The Revolution of Dignity resulted in the removal of a pro-Russian president from power and marked the country’s geopolitical shift towards a closer association with the West. Among reforms introduced was the Open Data Law, which requires all government entities to publish public information in an open data format. The law led to the formation of innovative collaborations based on the development of open data tools and services. The goal was to address corruption, increase citizens’ participation in political processes, and enhance electronic public services. Since the open data movement is still nascent, there is almost no academic literature examining its impact. At the same time, dominant discourses present open data either as a neutral and universally applicable tool or inherently ‘good’ technology in and of itself. These discourses neglect the embeddedness of open data in the broader socio-political structures and the role of individual actors in shaping its potentialities and limitations. I refer to critical scholarship in communication and technology and the field of STS to offer a more nuanced framework for examining the movement. I conceptualize open data as a space of convergence between social and technical domains. This space mediates the existing (geo)political tensions and, simultaneously, offers new forms of political agency characterized by democratic interventions into processes of the technological design. To examine these aspects, I conducted semi-structured interviews with members of the Ukrainian open data community, including representatives from government, civil society, and the startup community. The results demonstrated the presence of impactful civil-led initiatives, while also highlighting their complex interactions with post-Soviet institutional arrangements and Ukraine’s geopolitical realities.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Chow-White
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.