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Joseph Brandim Howson

Corpus Christi College

Working Title: Open Data and the Politics of Transparency in Mexico


My doctoral research contributes to discussions on transparency, transparency’s relationship to data and the paradoxes emerging from this pairing. I begin from a position that understands transparency to be a disputed concept and, by extension, understands transparency initiatives as contentious interventions. I also recognise data as produced objects that are not necessarily an adequate response to transparency demands. I bring this critical perspective into my encounters with Mexico’s federal open data. By working with open data and collaborating on the production of transparency outputs, I draw attention to moments that may otherwise go unnoticed in the dominant data-transparency circuitry. I complement these collaborative experiments with formal interactions with the key policies, technologies and institutions tasked with safeguarding transparency in Mexico, as well as explorations into contemporary cultural experiments that present other data-transparency configurations. This study’s interdisciplinary, participatory approach provides for a novel reflection on the contemporary contours of data-led transparency.

This project has developed at a moment in which competing paradigms of transparency have entered Mexico’s national conversation. This study is grounded in the particular socio-political conditions of Mexico but its insights are relevant beyond this national context as they reflect on the roles of data and transparency in contemporary governance.


I am currently a PhD candidate based in the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Latin American Studies (POLIS). During 2019-20 I was a visiting researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). My research is funded by the UK’s Economics & Social Research Council.
Prior to beginning postgraduate studies, I worked as a Consultant for a digital technology strategy firm. I completed professional qualifications in Business Analysis and Technology Solutions Development. I also hold certifications in Quantitative Data Analysis and Statistics (with Stata and R).
I was born in Northeast Brazil (Piauí) and moved to the UK as a young child. As the recipient of a state-school education, I am committed to participating in a more equitable higher education system.   

Academic awards:

  • Honorary Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar, University of Cambridge.
  • Economic & Social Research Council Doctoral Studentship, University of Cambridge.
  • Arts & Humanities Research Council MPhil Studentship, University of Cambridge.
  • Professor Wyn Grant Award for Academic Excellence, University of Warwick.