Big Data; myth or reality?

This weeks reading were definitely an interesting out look on what we mean by “big data” and re-defining not only the definitional but certain socio-economical theories and constitutes about it. For the most part, when people talk or generalize about “big data” it is this unfathomable, unquantifiable large amounts of information that we’re trying to categorize and clean-up for x and y reason for x and y company. Although this isn’t technically wrong, the authors and sources we looked at especially this week (but also can of course connect it to previous weeks and greatly falls right after last week’s cloud computing theme) give a different perspective on deeper issues and concepts that immediately surround and relate to the accumulation, understanding, meaning and use, purposeful or accidental, of the countless of data that is collected every second of every day. As Rob Kitchin puts it:

“Big Data creates a radical shift in how we think about research …. [It offers] a profound change at the levels of epistemology and ethics. Big Data reframes key questions about the constitution of knowledge, the processes of research, how we should engage with information, and the nature and the categorization of reality … Big Data stakes out new terrains of objects, methods of knowing, and definitions of social life. (boyd and Crawford, 2012)” (Kitchin, 2014, 1). 

In a more data science perspective, big data works to analyze, extract information, deal with large and complex amounts of data that cannot be deal with or processed through “every-day” software that we use on the go, as it also is sufficient enough for the fast pace lifestyles that most of us lead. Basically, accumulating unstructured data that needs to be filtered and categorize in order to serve a purpose. But what we are calling on here, is the realization of how much more complicated “big data” really is and the fact that in reality, “bit data” affect our lives way more than we actually realize and play a “prominent role in every aspect” of it (Huberman, 2017). The way we choose to live our lives nowadays, is a life that in a way is constantly interloped with technology (smart phones, emails, social media & networks, credit cards, smart home devices, cars, laptops, etc.) where knowingly or unknowingly we are constantly feeding back the system with so much information about us, what we do, where we are, what she buy, eat, drink, listen to, that in return we get a very personalized portfolio if you may, that matches our preferences, hobbies, lifestyles, etc. We get personalized ads, personalized feeds and more because of this mass accumulation of data that is taking place on a much larger scale than it did even 5-10 years ago since not only has the accumulation of different devices per individual increased but our lives on the internet have also developed on such an exponentially fast paced trajectory. Imagine how many people around the world are constantly “feeding” the cloud or companies with data and information that then has to be analyzed, categorized and set to its respective path to only be processed by companies and then be fed back to us in more disguised and discrete forms, one of those mainly being advertisements.

Johnson and Denning (2017) also emphasize this huge “big data revolution” as a result of “the expansion of the internet into billions of computing devices, and the digitization of almost everything. […] Digitization creates digital representations for many things once thought to be beyond the reach of computing technology”. And this exactly explains how much “big data” truly affect all aspects of life that not only have the ability to personalize ads but also indicate yet again how globalized this world has become because of the constant development of technology. For example, especially during this pandemic, we saw the importance of online education something that would have been never imagined or accepted years ago. The fact that so many children, people, educators, students, etc. all over the world are able to log onto to platforms from wherever they are for hours at a time while also being able to record, participate, interact and do so much more while getting an education can be attributed the the capacity of technology to support such activities and not only maintain them as they are happening live but also save them for future use. Even the cities we live in, accumulate countless of data over processes we most likely don’t even assume provide data yet it is truly hard to not be digitized nowadays, otherwise the difficulties and setbacks that can arise with being “disconnected” or not apart of the world. Transportation services in cities whether smart app rides Uber, Lyft, etc. who collect data, so does public transportation such as buses to monitor the amount of people who use them, to plan out routes, get informed on best possible routes, traffic accidents and more. CCTV and other security systems are constantly monitoring, recording and collecting information many times on the spot analyzing potential threats or issues. Of course, socio-political and economic issues are ultimately affected by the development and evolution of technology in all aspects of life. Examples of this are economic crisis that never just affect one entity or one country or one company but the whole system, wars and political disputes do not stay limited within borders or zones but expand into other circumstances and cross borders as people migrate, seek refuge, change status, etc. 




Bernardo A. Huberman, “Big Data and the Attention Economy” Ubiquity 2017, (December 2017): 2:1–2:7.

Jeffrey Johnson, Peter Denning, et al., “Big Data: Big Data or Big Brother? That Is the Question Now (Concluding Statement),” Ubiquity 2018, no. August (August 2018): 2:1–2:10.

Jeffrey Johnson, Peter Denning, et al., Big Data, Digitization, and Social Change (Opening Statement)Ubiquity 2017, (December 2017).

Rob Kitchin, “Big Data, New Epistemologies and Paradigm Shifts,” Big Data & Society 1, no. 1 (January 1, 2014): 1-12.

Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their ConsequencesLondon; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2014. Excerpts.

Wikipedia, “Big Data