View From Nowhere

Nathan Jurgenson, The New Inquiry, Oct 10, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting article commenting on Dataclysm, "a new book-length expansion of OkCupid president Christian Rudder's earlier blog-posted observations about the anomalies of his dating service’s data set." OkCupid is a matching site which posed questions to men and women and pairs them with their best matches. The data produced by the responses and other activities are mined for insights into human interactions. Nathan Jurgenson likens the approach employed by this site and other Big Data enterprises with the 19th and 20th century philosophy of positivism, which is the idea that the "world can be known and explained from a value-neutral, transcendent view from nowhere in particular." This is a very light and not altogether accurate take on positivism, but it set the stage nicely for a criticism of the hubris and ethical ambivalence demonstrated by big data enterprises.

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