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Six Provocations for Big Data

A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, September 2011

17 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011 Last revised: 30 Oct 2012

danah boyd

Data & Society Research Institute; Microsoft Research

Kate Crawford

Microsoft Research; MIT Center for Civic Media; NYU Information Law Institute

Date Written: September 21, 2011

Abstract

The era of Big Data has begun. Computer scientists, physicists, economists, mathematicians, political scientists, bio-informaticists, sociologists, and many others are clamoring for access to the massive quantities of information produced by and about people, things, and their interactions. Diverse groups argue about the potential benefits and costs of analyzing information from Twitter, Google, Verizon, 23andMe, Facebook, Wikipedia, and every space where large groups of people leave digital traces and deposit data. Significant questions emerge. Will large-scale analysis of DNA help cure diseases? Or will it usher in a new wave of medical inequality? Will data analytics help make people’s access to information more efficient and effective? Or will it be used to track protesters in the streets of major cities? Will it transform how we study human communication and culture, or narrow the palette of research options and alter what ‘research’ means? Some or all of the above?

This essay offers six provocations that we hope can spark conversations about the issues of Big Data. Given the rise of Big Data as both a phenomenon and a methodological persuasion, we believe that it is time to start critically interrogating this phenomenon, its assumptions, and its biases.

(This paper was presented at Oxford Internet Institute’s “A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society” on September 21, 2011.)

Keywords: Big Data, methodology, sociology, computer science, analysis

Suggested Citation

boyd, danah and Crawford, Kate, Six Provocations for Big Data (September 21, 2011). A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, September 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1926431 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1926431

Danah Boyd (Contact Author)

Microsoft Research ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://research.microsoft.com/

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

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New York,, NY 10011
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HOME PAGE: http://www.datasociety.net

Kate Crawford

Microsoft Research ( email )

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641 Avenue of the Americas, level 7
New York, NY NY 10011
United States

MIT Center for Civic Media ( email )

75 Amherst St
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

NYU Information Law Institute ( email )

Wilf Hall
139 MacDougal Street
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

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