Our emerging project definition of ‘big data’ is data that is incrementally larger than anything people have had to deal with before, in a given field.
— Lynette Taylor (2013) “Big Data in the Developing World”
“Raw Data” is both an oxymoron and a bad idea.
— Geoffrey C. Bowker, Memory practices in the Sciences
A simple twitter search for the #data hashtag today will provide the user with a real-time glimpse of the evolving nature of data and its social ramifications. “Big”, “semantic”, “open” and “mobile”, are only some of the conditions of data today. After interacting with these terms, it quickly becomes clear that data does not appear to be neutral nor natural and that, as a cultural construct, the study of data requires new critical approaches to chart and explore its human and social implications.
In this sense, the book “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron (2013) recently published by MIT Press and edited by Lisa Gitelman — Professor of English and Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University — could not be more timely. The book contains “eight episodes in the history of data” by a number of renowned scholars concerned not only with the digital, but also the pre-digital condition of data. The introduction to the book, written by Gitelman and Virginia Jackson recognizes that “the new millenium has arrived as the era of Big Data”, and that there is “a seismic shift in the contemporary conception and use — the sheer existence — of so much data” (2). This new era requires critical explorations on the generation, protection and interpretation of data (12).
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