Since Julia can’t make it for the presentation due to the different timezone, she made these videos to have her say. Hope you’ll enjoy it, and as usual – please feel free to comment, criticise and add your voice too!
In the previous posts, I have tried to briefly analyze the positive and the negative aspects of big data, after introducing the main concepts around this issue. Here, I would like to drawn my own conclusion, taking into account Evgeny Morozov’s critic to “the folly of technological solutionism” (2013).
When reading the material concerning big data, most of the time it seems very polarized. It is either a dangerous and dystopian image that is presented (O’Neil, 2016), or, as Ilario wrote in a previous post, almost Evangelical in which big data and algorithms will be our saviour as in Krings Ted Talk.
As Julia points out in her recent post, big data presents fantastic opportunities for the Development field – especially when combined with the new frontier of medicine. The vision of big data as ‘our saviour’ is coherent with the warning by Spratt and Baker, according to whom “those who argue for the benefits of big data often adopt an evangelical tone, while opponents tend to stress the dystopian nature of a big data future” (2016, p.5).
In this second blog post, I would like to go a little bit deeper into the issues raised in this collective blog. In particular, I will briefly analyse the potential risks of the so-called ‘dictatorship of the algorithm’.
According to Spratt and Baker (2016), one of the defining features of big data is the ability to synthesize different data sets in ways that were not previously possible. They mention the possibility of using remotely sensed and crowd sourced data to ‘map’ problems of many types, such as tracking and modelling the spread of malaria, and that is exactly the theme in the Ted Talk How telecom data can radically change the way development aidworks by Gautier Krings. He explains how we, to be able to reach the SDG:s by 2030, need to change and improve how we work with development. According to Krings, the basis for development workers and policy makers to function properly is good and accurate information, something he sees as lacking in traditional data collection.
Can a tweet (or a blog post, or an on-line article) deliver real impact in the Development world? As a journalist and as a Multimedia Editor of a small, international charity, I do want to believe so. However, reality goes on despite what we believe or not: so, let’s get a quick look at the academic literature that can help us defining the issue and start a discussion about it.
In a recent article called “Does Trump’s Rise Mean Liberalism’s End?” in The New Yorker, Yuval Noah Harari claims that in the wake of the collapsing “Liberal Story”, no new story has taken its place and as a consequence we get Donald Trump. This happens due to the disillusion among Americans after having believed in the promises and assurances presented in the liberal dream which claims that “if we only liberalize and globalize our political and economic systems, we will produce paradise on earth, or at least peace and prosperity for all. According to this story (…) humankind is inevitably marching toward a global society of free markets and democratic politics.”
After having read the literature assigned to us in this course, I feel like I have a somewhat unclear reflection of the concept and critique of big data, especially in regards to the concerns discussed related to the risk of discrimination, bias, the consequences and risks presented by a ´digital divide’ and a lack of statistical certainty and accuracy (Spratt & Baker 2016).
We are currently discussing what direction this blog should take – we don’t want it to be “just another wordpress site”, as the standard tagline says. But rest assured: it will be a passionate, thoughtful, collaborative blog about Social Media, Data and Development.
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