How does big data play a role in ethics and society? Well, it’s obvious to me that there is a disconnect between science and the epistemological and ethical ways people do research. Anytime one analyzes data they add bias by valuing specific factors more or less within their research, whether people like it or not. But, what does it mean to understand data?
There is more data out there now than ever, in the history of mankind and data just as there is more technology now than ever. This highly correlated relationship shows the connection both have to impersonal relations. This disconnect from humanity may be leading these areas of study down unethical paths. We are hardwired towards a very particular path of understanding.
Data can expose society to more understandings and perspectives. It can help people to understand technicalities or contexts. Many people have a hard time discerning both sides of a perspective. Luckily, big data helps to close this gap by providing more accuracy.
However, even though data is getting more open, people need to be more educated about it. For example, people must be able to understand the implicit assumptions made by data sets and take each set with a grain of salt, if you will. Data does not mean evidence or truth but it does mean changing how we live our lives and how we understand them. Yet, our ways of showing data have not changed very much. For example, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia depicts detail hand drawn images just like encyclopedias (both in text and online) have today. An image speaks one thousand words and shows what can’t be described as bare knowledge. However, the visualization techniques for big data are also causing issues because data sets are typically large, taxing the capacities of the technologies that create it.
Big data is both a conceptual and technical revolution. Information in our world has become datafied, meaning information analysis and processing are data driven. People seek data rather than just pure images as proof. This may be because visuals can’t represent the complexity of modern science…. But what is this complexity anyway? Well, it is a function of seeing closer with better quality and being able to handle more information at once. But, maybe it’s not as complex in other ways. At some point, all of the radical differences in making sense of modern science have to come to a point in which they are no longer complex.
Time will only tell if the progression of big data will keep changing how we do research, hopefully, the need for critical reflection in sciences will be capitalized upon as data science progresses.