The folks at the Sk/oll W/orld Forum were nice enough to let me write some rambling thoughts about “Big Data” for publication in, I’m guessing, a glossy brochure that will be flipped through if any of their event’s panels prove to be particularly tedious. I am grateful for the opportunity, and congratulate myself for not making any of the childish chewing tobacco jokes that were ripping through my mind during the process.
Normally I would sheepishly self-promote on Twitter and leave it at that. But it is maybe worth sharing how the editorial process went. I originally wrote a piece that said, “You know, this stuff isn’t really new–the analysis of quantitative data and its application to social policy are at least a century old, and we probably shouldn’t expect any sudden home runs. But it is true that some new things are being measured lately, so who knows, we might figure some new stuff out.”
This was totally inverted, though, to emphasize the exciting new types of data and to minimize my yawning ho-hummery about the limits of technocratic governance. And it’s true that this inversion makes for a much more compelling piece! The editors I worked with did their jobs well (though I’ll admit I have no idea what the hed has to do with the piece).
But consider this datapoint when you read things about Big Data, or really any technology. Unless you achieve Morozovian levels of learnedness and vituperation, you’re not going to place anything that amounts to “Don’t Believe the Hype.”