a more global view of data

I recently published a post on the Society and Space site, suggesting that it’s time for researchers to consider and debate in much greater detail the kinds of data that we can use, and how much they can tell us about the world. ‘Big data’ research is the subject of all kinds of claims (it can solve poverty, save the rhino, prevent tooth decay…), and therefore there are potential advantages to labelling our work that way in terms of getting funding and attention. So it’s up to us to be as clear as possible about what we can’t say about the world using the new data sources. Here’s how it began:

The social sciences are engaged in a trans-disciplinary debate on the meaning and use of new forms of digital data. One of the most important repercussions from Dalton and Thatcher’s call (2014) for a critical data studies has been an awareness that researchers need to continually sensitise themselves to the contextualities of data’s production and use (Kitchin 2014, Graham and Shelton 2013, Nissenbaum 2010). This short essay responds to this ongoing debate, laying out the case for such an awareness and asking how we might better operationalise it in data studies. If researchers working with the new data sources – and geographers in particular – can learn to think across contexts in a more inclusive way, it may take us further toward realising big data’s promise as a tool for social scientific research.

You can read the rest here