Big data, big dreams


We all know that Google and Amazon and Facebook know everything about us, right? This bothers some people — it bothers me, for example — and not others. But what bothers the Chronicle of Higher Education is that the lords of Big Data aren’t sharing it with… academics:

[W]hat should be an opportunity for social science is now threatened by a three-headed monster of privatization, amateurization, and Balkanization. A coordinated public effort is needed to overcome all of these obstacles….

While many folks are legitimately concerned about privacy in an era of Internet giants, we think that these private firms and public-sector agencies should be made to share their data more—not less—but with the National Science Foundation, not the National Security Agency….

Rather than just apply to Yahoo to work with its data in a silo, researchers would be able to link such proprietary data to other, diverse sources of information including those of other firms and government agencies, or even to newly collected information.

Gotta admire the chutzpah.

6 thoughts on “Big data, big dreams

  1. Running fancy programs on the Data Piled High and Deep may be a savior of other fields in the “Humanities” as well that seem to be petering out into irrelevance:

    Her enthusiasm for [evolutionary neuroscience and cognitive psychology] appears strange, given that the rule of biological processes is hardly less anonymous and deterministic than a globalizing turn that effaces human agency. Importing newfangled theories from other esoteric fields and leaning on works of pop science doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

  2. All that data is access is vital to distinguish future trustworthy sources from non-. From Restricted usage:

    Access to all those records will be restricted, of course–to protect not only national security, but the privacy of the individuals who were spied upon. 50 years from now, only the right kinds of journalists, sociologists, historians, and political scientists will have access to those records. Ergo when it comes time to release the dazzling new critical biography of [Famous/Influential Person], the elite journalist or scholar will be the only trusted source. Good connections will provide access to the “real” records.

    Anyone can write about Shakespeare. In a few generations, though, you won’t be able to write about anything in the humanities, and be taken seriously, unless you are one of the special, privileged scholars who has access to all the records. And, for reasons of scholarship, with greatest care given to the privacy of historical figures, government archivists will permit limited access, in special circumstances, to the top people in their respective fields. Anyone who makes arguments other than the ones from your privileged-access work is, by definition, uninformed–because they won’t know what Shakespeare’s buying patterns on revealed about the true meaning of his plays.

  3. i like your style H.A.

    the Furies must be flailing away at MJS, all these posts. whom the gods would destroy, they drive to blog.

    an academic approach to all this Hot Throbbing Data is to anonymize it, right? somehow i think google et al will accommodate the eggheads. “only NSA, CIA, DOJ, etc., will have access to this data. and whoever hacks Google.”

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