Six Provocations for Big Data

Thanks to Kevin Pomfret for passing this along.

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibilities, by Erica Naone, MIT Technology Review, October 5, 2011

The reams of data that many modern businesses collect—dubbed “big data”—can provide powerful insights. … A new paper presented at a recent Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society spells out the reasons that businesses and academics should proceed with caution. While privacy invasions—both deliberate and accidental—are obvious issues, the paper also warns that data can easily be incomplete and distorted. (See link above for full text of the article).

Six Provocations for Big Data by Danah Boyd and Kate Crawford, presented at Oxford Internet Institute‘s “A Decade in Internet Tiime: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society” on September 21, 2011

Abstract: The era of Big Data has begun. Computer scientists, physicists, economists, mathematicians, political scientists, bio-informaticists, sociologists, and many others are clamoring for access to the massive quantities of information produced by and about people, things, and their interactions. Diverse groups argue about the potential benefits and costs of analyzing information from Twitter, Google, Verizon, 23andMe, Facebook, Wikipedia, and every space where large groups of people leave digital traces and deposit data. Significant questions emerge. Will large-scale analysis of DNA help cure diseases? Or will it usher in a new wave of medical inequality? Will data analytics help make people’s access to information more efficient and effective? Or will it be used to track protesters in the streets of major cities? Will it transform how we study human communication and culture, or narrow the palette of research options and alter what ‘research’ means? Some or all of the above?

This essay offers six provocations that we hope can spark conversations about the issues of Big Data. Given the rise of Big Data as both a phenomenon and a methodological persuasion, we believe that it is time to start critically interrogating this phenomenon, its assumptions, and its biases. (See link above for full text of the article.)

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