Book Launch: The Immaculate Conception of Data

Book Launch: The Immaculate Conception of Data

Nowadays, 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.  

In her new book, The Immaculate Conception of Data, Dr. Bronson 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, Dr. Bronson 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 author, Dr. Kelly Bronson, will be joined by farmer Samuel Oslund for a conversation on data, powers and the future our food and environment that will be moderated by with Prof. Vincent Mirza.

This event is presented 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 on AI and Environment here.


The Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments at the AI + Society Initiative and the Research Centre on the Future of Cities presents,
in collaboration with the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the Institute for Science, Society and Policy and the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics

Date and time
Sep 12, 2022
All day
Format and location
All Saints, 330 Laurier E, Ottawa ON K1N 6P9
Organized by