Knowledge discovery and changing power dynamics in Big Data research

22 September 2020

In “Big Data and the Little Big Bang: An Epistemological (R)evolution”, recently published in Open Access in Frontiers in Big Data, Dominik Balazka (FBK-ICT/FBK-ISR) and Dario Rodighiero (Harvard University/MIT) discuss Big Data epistemology.

The article challenge the objectivistic rhetoric in Big Data research emphasizing that data collection is not a neutral pre-social process, that exhaustivity is a mathematical limit and that meaning production remain both subjectively and theoretically informed. In contrast with the widespread idea that Big Data represents a full-fledged revolution that placed science within an entirely new paradigm of knowledge production, the research highlights evolutive links that anchor Big Data to past the epistemological debate. The authors then examine the characteristics of the “new digital divide” arguing that privatization and commercialization of data is producing a re-definition of power dynamics in the scientific research.

In February 2020, the European Commission opened a public consultation in an attempt to define “a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of AI as well as a reflection on the better use of big data for innovation”. This review integrate the reply formulated by FBK-ISR by critically exploring the current state of the field.