Provoking Big Data

As computing power expands exponentially, excitement in the research community grows regarding the availability, prevalence, and newfound ease in analyzing large data sets known colloquially as “Big Data”. Even the humanities (in the form of digital humanities) have begun to embrace computation as a mode of study, and popular publications have all but declared qualitative research dead.

Drawing on David Berry’s idea of the “computational turn” in the humanities and social sciences, researchers danah boyd and Kate Crawford raise serious, timely, and well-grounded questions about the implications, assumptions, and norms around the growing use of “Big Data” in their article, “Six Provocations for Big Data”.

The issues are largely intertwining questions of access, control, academic freedom, research ethics, and the assumptions, contours, and values of social research.

This article is valuable for anyone interested in the future of research and the use of social media data, and should provoke conversation, or at least inspire questions and second thoughts about the use of Big Data in studying society as a whole.


Author: Jessica Speer

As the Research Specialist at SSRC, Jessica edits re/search, consults with faculty, and conducts SSRC research projects. She is interested in questions of information management, preservation, communication, and dissemination.

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