Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 742. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: email@example.com Date: 2020-04-07 07:45:45+00:00 From: Willard McCarty
Subject: Big Data unexamined Yesterday Humanist published an announcement of a conference on methodology specifically directed to examination of how social data is collected and handled (33.735). I was struck by the statement that, > While the body of literature using digital and social media data > is growing at a staggering rate, accompanying methodological contributions > about the process of conducting research with digital and social media data > remains thin. I expect that we're all familiar with the claim, expressed or implied, that with Big Data we can finally leave guesswork behind and see what is really going on. A variant of this is the claim that unadorned, undistorted truth arises from the mathematical (i.e. statistical) analysis of such data; e.g. that we can finally see how wrong we've been about some literary phenomenon because we've not until now had all of it at our command. Ok, I am exaggerating beyond, I suspect, what any careful scholar, data scientist or machine-learning expert would say, or say in public. Nevertheless, the notion of objectivity achieved through Big Data is about in the world and needs some light shown on it, yes? I am reminded of arguments openly made some decades ago that simply providing all existing versions of a text in digital form with tools to manipulate them would eliminate the need for textual editors. No one now would say any such thing, but we do get carried away -- and carried away from the really hard (and exciting) work. Yesterday, in the same batch of postings as the one about that conference, Ken Friedman quoted his doctoral professor Dorothy Harris: > "Be true to your sources and your sources will be true to you." 'To be true to' ... How much that demands of us! If anything, use of digital tools makes that an even greater challenge. Comments? Yours, WM -- 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) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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