In this lecture, Professor Hanlon discussed an interesting topic about data revolution. He argues that for a long time in human history, the use of data as a visual proof is a revolutionary approach to illustrate one’s point. His main arguments are since data is visual and seeing is believe, using data is a powerful tool to deliver messages or arguments.
I would agree with him that data is powerful. However, this tool can be used in both positive and negative ways. Professor Hanlon raised an interesting example of Micrographia written by Robert Hooke. Through various lenses, Hooke managed to draw small insects at a magnified level. This visual data revolutionary changed how people perceived the world around us, since we had never thought to compare the small beings at a massive level.
However, data is also powerful because it’s very easy to access. As smartphones become available and social network gains a dramatic increase in popularity, in recent years, a lot of visual data can be gathered with ease. This could be a threat. For example, in traditional holidays, the instant communication applications allow people to get knowledge even if they didn’t want the information. There are a lot of examples such as Facebook news feed. Then, people won’t pay attention to even think about these data; they will just simply click “like.” This indiscriminate way of absorbing information made people don’t even question these data. With sharing and messaging them, the impact of the data increases, and the misinformation became a conspiracy.
Nowadays, many irresponsible scientists also raised false data to achieve their goals, such as climate change deniers who didn’t believe in climate change. They made up research data that didn’t make sense. Although it is still an ongoing issue, historically, moral environmental scientists had spared a lot of efforts in order to spread the truth and protect human well-beings. In the 1970s, people didn’t realize that lead was poisonous. Petroleum companies funded scientists to do research to prove that lead would not seriously influence human health. However, Clare Paterson, who was an expert in this field, used his research to prove that the scientists were wrong. The public didn’t have access to the true information because of the wrong data. Therefore, data could be deceiving for some beneficial and interest group.
In conclusion, data is indeed a powerful tool for argument and illustration. However, it could be used in two oppose ways. Therefore, we have to question everything that comes with “sufficient data.” Maybe there isn’t enough data to be sufficient to prove some theories. As scholars, we have to maintain our inquisitive curiosity to skeptic and analyze different data and theories, which would be most important.