• Open Call: Big data, big dada? 

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    Posted: 21 January 2016

    Open call extended

    Submit your proposal before March 1st, 2016

    At the dawn of the 21st century, our increasing desire for and dependence on technology enabled the quantification of our every move, act, behavior and thought, as such, constructing an endless repository of information. Data and technology promise to become revolutionary powers in the future, as together they can give insight into processes and things which are otherwise not visible. Through good application of big and open data, we can predict illnesses to potentially avoid epidemics, or perhaps find a solution for say, Jakarta’s traffic problem. If citizens are able to access any data to improve their own data, will their lives improve?

    The promise of Big and Open Data has rebooted a tradition of positivist enlightened thinking, presuming that the analyses and applications of transparent or open information will automatically lead to a sustainable world. Does it, and if so, who decides if this indeed leads to a better world?

    Today’s challenges are mostly the result of paradigms, choices, and policies of the industrialized economies. It seems unlikely that the same narratives that provided the breeding ground will also construct ways to navigate towards a sustainable future. It is even conceivable that new technology could create even larger gaps between rich and poor, and perpetuate increased mechanisms of exclusion. Mobile and networked technologies create complex digital trails of human activity that can be tracked, modified and analysed to provide insight into what ‘we’ want, what ‘we‘ do, with whom ‘we’ hang and what ‘we’ might need in the future; without really knowing who we are – without knowing ourselves. Predictions based on interpretations of big data have become an important component in designing policies to face our most complex global challenges: climate, food production, social inequality, health and security.

    On the one hand, this raises ethical questions regarding the mining of information, its ownership, and the responsibility that goes with safeguarding our privacy when hosting our data. On the other hand, this may create insight into matters that can be used for the greater good. If data is indeed ‘the new oil’ and governments base their policy on data-based evidence, we urgently need to explore and create new ways to discuss such topics.


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