Critical (Big) Data Studies
Sally Wyatt (2022) Critical (Big) Data Studies. In Darryl Cressman (Ed.), The Necessity of Critique: Andrew Feenberg and the Philosophy of Technology (pp. 127–142). Springer.
Very pleased to see this chapter in print. And I’m immensely grateful to Darryl Cressman for his encouragement, support and incredibly editing.
In this chapter, I critically examine the concept of ‘big data’ and the associated claims of using big data to solve myriad social and scientific problems. Four myths associated with ‘big data’ are discussed:
- data are given
- ‘big data’ is a natural resource
- numbers speak for themselves
- everything is already digital
Each of these is critiqued and shown to be wanting. This is done by using examples of big data in different social and scientific application domains, and by drawing on insights from the philosophy of science and technology, science and technology studies (STS), and the emerging field of critical data studies. The conclusion raises a number of questions, the answers to which will enable people to engage critically with big data and to contribute to the development of critical big data studies. In the conclusion, I also reflect on my own use of data to support my arguments.
This started as a short lecture that I gave during the 42nd birthday celebrations of Maastricht University in 2018. You can read more about that here, where you will also find a link to a video of the lecture.