I’ve just published a great piece on The Sociological Review blog, by Sage’s Ziyad Marar, which really resonates with some of the concerns shaping my new project:
Yet our digital culture may exacerbate this problem by tilting us even further toward speed, simplicity and utility. In what is often called the ‘attention economy’ (where information overload makes attention the scarce resource) there is a clear need to filter our consumption efficiently, therefore inviting the twin enticements of automation and aggregation. The hope is that we can navigate the suffusion of information by using big data, algorithms and metrics of many types and thereby cope with the tidal wave of knowledge without drowning.
But this trend favours certain types of information, the more standardised the better, and relies on a metaphor of knowledge as a process of discovery, yielding up simple enough nuggets that will be grist to the mill of aggregation. This is all very well for simpler, tamer problems that are commonly dealt with by physical and natural science. When it comes to messier and more ‘wicked’ problems, which are to a larger extent the focus of social science and the humanities, interpretation is often a more apt mode of enquiry. And the results are usually more ambivalent and need careful digestion and patience and need to be assessed with a multi-dimensional framing
Later on this year, I’m planning a short piece, building on the question of digital capitalism and the form of social science it encourages, discussing digital capitalism and the form of social science it needs. We’re seeing the emergence of a potentially dominant approach to digital social science which contributes to the systematic mystification of the political economy of digital capitalism.