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The epistemology of digital platforms

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SG1, Alison Richard Building, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

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The epistemology of digital platforms

Ethics of Big Data Research Group seminar

Speaker: Dr Jean-Christophe Plantin, London School of Economics

Abstract:

Existing scholarship has already debunked the rhetoric of digital platforms as “neutral intermediaries“ to show, on the contrary, how they shape communication practices, online interactions, and the circulation of information more generally. This talk follows such move by interrogating the increasing role digital platforms play in shaping knowledge in society, and focuses on scholarly data sharing. It contrasts how traditional data archives and recent digital platforms “take care” of scholarly data to allow their circulation and reuse. Relying on a theoretical framework that models the increasing overlap between digital platforms and infrastructures, and based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in the two settings, this comparison between “old” and “new” data sharing configurations brings two results. First, infrastructures and platforms are each based on a different conception of data, respectively data "as a good,” “broken” by default and that require to be “cleaned” before circulation vs. data "as a service” that require minimal curation and maintenance to be made available through APIs. Second, while being open to any type of data and disciplines, the material and discursive configuration of digital platforms promotes an epistemological model of science as “programmable,” highly compatible with “big data” research but discarding other research practices.

About the Ethics of Big Data seminar series - Easter Term 2017

Narratives of “big data” emphasise the opportunities and possibilities it presents for new forms of knowledge production and its contribution to research and innovation. They also emphasise the transformations and distinct challenges it presents in relation to the practices, standards and social relations of knowledge production. This term’s seminars explore changing practices of knowledge production in relation to big data. Our speakers discuss questions of research reproducibility, the maintenance and care for data, and the democratisation and extension of knowledge production associated with ‘citizen sensing’.

Free and open to all, but please register in advance to ensure a place at the event

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SG1, Alison Richard Building, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

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