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Humanist Archives: Feb. 22, 2020, 8:17 a.m. Humanist 33.623 - network analytics

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 623.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
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        Date: 2020-02-22 08:07:41+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: network analytics

In recent conversations with a colleague on work in AI and related
areas, I've been made aware of how problematic claims made on behalf of
'Big Data' can be, or in principle are. In work stretching back to the
1990s, Paul Edwards has shown for global climate science how the notion
that such Big Data converges on an 'objective' truth is deeply flawed.
I'd very much like to know about other such work, especially anything
that makes the argument in general but with examples. The trigger this
morning, however, comes via the blog of the London Review of Books for
19 February, in an entry by Eyal Weizman, "The algorithm is watching
you"*, on the network analytics that resulted in his exclusion from the
U.S. Weizman comments:

> This much we know: we are being electronically monitored for a set of
> connections – the network of associations, people, places, calls and
> transactions – that make up our lives. Such network analysis poses
> many problems, some of which are well known.

The political and personal dimensions of the problem are obviously
serious. My specific concern here is the way in which naive assumptions
we make in the course of our data analytics supports such flagrant
misuse as Weizman reports. Even if we assume that the object of the
enquiring gaze is correctly identified, there is a fundamental problem:
we are as far if not further from 'objectivity' as ever. Those who are
familiar with Daston and Galison, Objectivity (2007), ground for which
was laid by Galison in "Objectivity is Romantic" (1999)**, know this
already, of course.



Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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