Tomorrow’s Social Science Today? By Techies?

If you generate the data, the analysts will come.  And more and more of the technologies of everyday life generate data, lots of it. “Big data” takes big tools and big tools cost big bucks.  The science of big data is mostly social science but, for the most part, it’s not being done by social scientists.  What’s left out when social scientists leave themselves out of the conversation? And what happens to the funding for non-big-data social science when resource-hungry projects like this emerge?  And what will be the effect on the epistemological status of non-big-data social science?

from the New York Times…


Berkeley Group Digs In to Challenge of Making Sense of All That Data

“It comes in “torrents” and “floods” and threatens to “engulf” everything that stands in its path.

No, it is not a tsunami, it is Big Data, the incomprehensibly large amount of raw, often real-time data that keeps piling up faster and faster from scientific research, social media, smartphones — virtually any activity that leaves a digital trace.

The sheer size of the pile (measured in petabytes, one million gigabytes, or even exabytes, one billion gigabytes) combined with its complexity has threatened to overwhelm just about everybody, including the scientists who specialize in wrangling it. “It’s easier to collect data,” said Michael Franklin, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, “and harder to make sense of it.”

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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