IN THE AFTERMATH OF A SPATE OF POLICE KILLINGS THAT BEGAN with the June 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, an issue emerged as a newly apparent “matter of concern”: the alarming number of killings of unarmed people by the police, of course, but also the glaring absence of data on those killings. This paper analyzes the absence of data on police killings from the combined perspectives of digital media studies and science and technology studies, considering what this absence reveals about the promise and problems of data analytics for democratic governance.
Excerpt: "In the aftermath of a spate of police killings that began with the June 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, an issue emerged as a newly apparent matter of concern: the alarming number of killings of unarmed people by the police, of course, but also the glaring absence of data on those killings. From August 2014 through March 2015, news stories and commentary specifically addressing the absence of an official accounting of police killings appeared in places like Mother Jones, Gawker and Deadspin, and in major news media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal,and The Guardian. When journalists and other interested parties went looking for official statistics on the number of people who get killed by the police in the United States, they came up empty."
KELLY GATES is an Associate Professor in Communication and Science Studies at UC San Diego. Her research focuses on the critical analysis of digital media technologies. Her main emphasis has been the politics and social implications of computerization, and particularly the automation of surveillance, in the United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Her 2011 book, Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, explores the effort underway since the 1960s to teach computers to see the human face. She is currently working on a new project that investigates the emerging professional field of video forensics and its attendant technologies.