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Humanist Archives: April 15, 2020, 8:23 a.m. Humanist 33.765 - Big Data and Truth

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 765.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2020-04-15 00:55:52+00:00
        From: Francois Lachance 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.763: Big Data and Truth: other things that information can be

Jeremy Hunsinger

In reviewing the excerpt below I found myself wanting to halt the proliferation
and try and use the term 'data' (that which is given) in more sensitive
fashion (instead of trying to master an ever growing vocabulary)

In any event I did click on the link to check the bibliographic reference (just
what Guattari was being referenced)

The piece brought to mind protocol for working with Indigenous Communities:


The OCAP principles may be another route (with less cognitive overhead than the
proliferating list of distinctions. See

Ownership refers to the relationship of First Nations to their cultural
knowledge, data, and information. This principle states that a community or
group owns information collectively in the same way that an individual owns his
or her personal information.

Control affirms that First Nations, their communities, and representative bodies
are within their rights in seeking to control over all aspects of research and
information management processes that impact them. First Nations control of
research can include all stages of a particular research project-from start to
finish. The principle extends to the control of resources and review processes,
the planning process, management of the information and so on.
Access refers to the fact that First Nations must have access to information and
data about themselves and their communities regardless of where it is held. The
principle of access also refers to the right of First Nations communities and
organizations to manage and make decisions regarding access to their collective
information. This may be achieved, in practice, through standardized, formal

Possession While ownership identifies the relationship between a people and
their information in principle, possession or stewardship is more concrete: it
refers to the physical control of data. Possession is the mechanism by which
ownership can be asserted and protected.

I hope you find this intriguing


François Lachance
Wannabe Professor of Theoretical and Applied Rhetoric

to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks

> On Apr 14, 2020, at 3:20 AM, Humanist  wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 763.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                       www.dhhumanist.org
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>        Date: 2020-04-13 12:17:37+00:00
>        From: Jeremy Hunsinger 
>        Subject: Big Data and Truth
> I outline a few of them here:
> https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-94-024-1555-1_16
> In a paper called Big Capta, that argues that we should be talking
> about most of our informational world as Capta and that capta has
> different ethical requirements .
> below is a section from the preprint I made available on researchgate:
> The Other Modes of Information
> It is evident that the word 'data' has become universalized and
> hegemonized in public and research discourses, used in many places
> where better terms exist. Data as a hegemonic term has become part of
> the lingua franca of science. Data is one type of information.
> Information may be any number of other things; acta, capta, cognata,
> communicata, sumpta, and inventa are sometimes closer to what we are
> dealing with 'data' than data is. Universalized 'data' as data is
> closer to a myth than a reality. We live in a richly descriptive
> universe of conceptualization with the discourse of 'data' floating as
> a position absolving people from confronting many problems with their
> use of 'data'. It is time to move on to use the broad array of terms
> available to us.
> We should look very carefully about the claims we can make about data,
> acta, capta, cognata, communicata, sumpta, and inventa and acknowledge
> the reasons that data tends to be hegemonic which is for some the lack
> of moral or ethical claims one can make about it. We should
> acknowledge using the word 'data' disempowers the people and
> institutions from which we derive 'data.' In acknowledging that the
> use of 'data' is explicitly disempowering, we are left with the
> question of what we should call this information. One answer is that
> the majority of our information should be called capta, but there are
> other forms of information. Some of the diverse types of information
> are part of common scholarly parlance, like acta, others are invented
> like cognata, while others like sumpta and capta have been around and
> are unused in many fields. In this section of the chapter, acta,
> cognata, communicata, and inventa will be briefly discussed to allow
> people to see some of the richness of possible descriptions and
> possible mereological array of relations.
> Acta from the Latin means acts or transactions including the creation
> of an official record. So, acta implies something created as a record
> or a transaction. Acta then is information of record, where it
> represents the changes of the system. Much of what we currently call
> 'data' could also be better called acta, as it records a change of
> state. Many databases, for example, record the changes of state and
> thus would be better thought of as actabases. Acta is created by
> either the system in question or by subjects to the system, as the
> acta is usually a requirement of the system. Acta has significant
> import to our society, governance, and general relations because it
> records the change of state that occurs. It records the abnormalities
> of a system, which then lead to considering the basis for norms and
> normative judgments. Acta is important to most surveillance because it
> denotes and records changes; this sort of record keeping is the basis
> of most surveillance. Data exists in surveillance also, but the data
> of surveillance would be the unchanging things and are not even noted,
> such as if we imagine a surveillance camera pointing down a hallway,
> the walls themselves would be data which are never mentioned unless
> they are graffitied or otherwise changed. The walls are a 'given.' The
> transaction in the halls, such as colleagues arguing, is likely acta
> and later perhaps capta as they are interpreted.
> Hayden and Sansonnet-Hayden jokingly proposed cognata as an attempt to
> argue against capta and yet still recognizes problems with data for
> anthropology and similar interpretive disciplines. Cognata
> acknowledges a mixing of cognition with information, much like there
> is with every analysis. Cognition is present in the creation, the
> collection, and the analysis of information. Cognata also entails that
> several other psychological factors play a part in the 'cognizing' of
> 'observation' (Hayden and Sansonnet-Hayden 2001). The humorous intent
> of their proposal belies the reality of the attempts at objectivity in
> anthropology are much like the attempts in any other field;
> reflexivity is about as much as one can hope, as objectivity is the
> real boojum (their term). In their jest against capta, they reify the
> problem of objectivity, indicating some of the normative strictures
> cognata has. Fundamentally, cognata would be a quasi-object (Latour
> 1993) or a distributed cognition indicating the inclusion of human
> interests in the information present, which would require more ethical
> diligence than if the information were merely objective data
> (Hunsinger 2009, 2011, 2017). Cognata in the surveillance example
> would be many parts of the current system but also the information in
> the prior system and the next system. Cognata might be what leads us
> to put a surveillance camera into the hallway. Indeed, empirically
> founded, suspicion could be called cognata. If we used cognata, we
> would have to recognize much more substantively the work that
> forethought, afterthought, and thought, in general, brings about
> regarding observations and computations. Cognata is intertwined with
> our own or other's subjectivities in the past, present, and future and
> thus requires much more thought about its implications (Guattari 1995,
> 2000). Information arising from dialogue or discussions among people
> is called communicata (Walsh 1989). Communicata, as Walsh describes
> it, is what results from the added inputs that one might find coming
> from dialogue in government panels or citizen science endeavors. Much
> social research and all science arise from communicata in some respect
> because it is part of 'the great conversation' which is contemporary
> and past systems of knowledge generation and sharing. Recognizing the
> value of communicata as a dominant information type would help us
> overcome some of the traditional biases present in research, such as
> the fictum of the 'lone researchers' and associated topics. While
> communicata only arises in discursive contexts in Walsh, it is
> possible to see how it could aid significantly in helping the public
> understanding of science.
> A rarer mode of information is inventa. Inventa originated in
> Schiller's humanism and used recently. However, inventa seems to have
> some use today to indicate the form of information that arises through
> practices such as the dérive/drift and related/unrelated undirected
> practices. Schiller describes it below:
> We shall have to accommodate also a variety of inventa, things
> stumbled or hit upon and found, though we may feel doubtful whether
> the mere fact that they are somehow there, yields us any guarantee
> that they can be put to essential uses. (Schiller 1933)
> Even though it has not been used extensively elsewhere, conceptually,
> it has possibilities to help us understand the processes of big data,
> which sometimes has inventa-like findings.
> There are other modes of information and descriptions of information
> in our discursive world. This cursory introduction to a few of them is
> intended only to allow one to use them and to think about whether we
> should be using data as hegemonic term or whether it might be more
> rigorous, clearer, and more useful. Of course, data does have fewer
> ethical considerations due to its 'objective' and 'factitious'
> ideological construction; but the question then should be whether
> intentionally or not we should be using the ideologies of language to
> avoid ethical issues.

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