University of Colorado at Boulder

Colloquia Event

Friday September 13, 2013. 03:30 pm. GUGG 205

Changing Topographies and In/vulnerabilities of Techno-scientific Knowledge Production in ‘The Big Data Revolution’: Performative and Diversal Approaches to the Knowledge Commons’

David Turnbull

Senior Research Fellow, Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL), Architecture Faculty, Melbourne University

Abstract: In a period of extraordinarily rapid transformation since around 2010 the advanced economies of the world have moved from the relatively immature stages of what was once celebrated as ‘the information age’, ‘the digital era’, and ‘the knowledge economy’ to what the IT trade boosters herald as ‘Analytics 3.0’ the ‘Fourth Paradigm’, the ‘Big Data Revolution.’ It is claimed Big Data will ''replace ideas, paradigms, organizations and ways of thinking about the world.''

The paper critically explores the epistemological and political dimensions of the ‘Big Data revolution’ in the sciences. It is suggested that yes in some dimensions the advent of ‘Big Data’ is ontologically and epistemically revolutionary, while in others its working from restricted understandings of data, information, and knowledges. An examination of the ENCODE project shows these restrictions are especially apparent in its treatment of differing spatio-temporal narratives. But these transformations are not occurring in an economic or political vacuum, the paper also examines the ways in which Big Data revolution is another stage in capitalist primitive accumulation with a consequent enclosure of the knowledge commons.

The paper concludes that these changing topographies and in/vulnerabilities in techno-scientific knowledge production are best handled by treating knowledge performatively and that one approach to keeping the knowledge commons open is to treat differing ontologies diversely and hold them in tension.