Big data, human agency, critical realism and the future of the social sciences

I’m doing a webinar tomorrow as part of the Critical Realism Network series which I’m really looking forward to. It draws together much of my work, encompassing my contributions to the Centre for Social Ontology’s social morphogenesis and humanism projects, the Accelerated Academy, the Digital Social Science project I ran for the ISRF, my applied and theoretical work on social media, my ongoing monograph on The Distracted People of Digital Capitalism and my work on the Platform University project at Cambridge.

During this time, I’ve been circling round questions which I’m only now beginning to address head on and putting this together was a really helpful opportunity to try and draw these threads together, even if the result feels more provisional than I hoped it would be. Underpinning much of this is the notion of personal morphogenesis (the topic of my PhD) and what it means once digitalisation becomes ubiquitous. In this sense, the whole line of inquiry began with critical realism and I’m realising bringing it to a conclusion will involve coming back to critical realism, after a few years of drifting away because the people talking about the things I was interested in were mainly elsewhere.

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