Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Big Data Love

Reflections from 'ICT and Society' conference
Uppsala, Sweden May 2-4 2012

I spent several days among researchers interested in critical theories of the internet, political philosophers, technology ethicists, and what surprised me most among this group that studies ICT was--
The immense value of data has not sunk in.  They see the potential of connections, of organizing, or perhaps more darkly of these activities being watched or commercialized.  A critical mass of stories have reached them about targeted advertising or police monitoring, but there remains a disconnect between this anecdotal level of intrusion which is still talked about in the abstract-- the FBI wants google and facebook to be more friendly to wiretapping, 'yes, that is troubling,' I think to myself as I continue to type into a google-based platform-- a disconnect between the collection of data and perhaps what data is being collected.  Some dynamic keynote talks refused to discuss the issue with intangibles. They dismantled the myth of immaculate conception surrounding ICTs and hurled as much concrete at the abstract as they could fit in 30mins.  Grasping that everything is being cataloged because an algorithm may be built with it, is a difficult first step.  After that, knowing that it's not just surveillance of possible criminals or targeted ads that give this data its tremendous value.  It's much bigger than that.  It's about predicting behavior and environments and even changing them.  Power.  It is the closest humans have come to predicting the future.  Besides the fountain of youth, chasing omniscience has been top of the list since we grasped cause and effect.

And my own work kicks off from this premise.  I assume that everyone knows the value of data and why political and economic policies are put in place to protect data gathering.  I will try and address this shortcoming in my argument in successive posts, connecting the value of data to protective strategies to outcomes for innovation.

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