[CITASA] 2nd CFP 2013 AAG: Whither Small Data?: The limits of “big data” and the value of “small data” studies

ryan burns burnsr77 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 1 10:24:20 EDT 2012

Just a reminder, as the deadline is fast approaching.



*Whither Small Data?: The limits of “big data” and the value of “small
data” studies*

*Call for Papers*

*Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting*

*9-13 April 2013 Los Angeles, CA*

Ryan Burns, Department of Geography, University of Washington
Jim Thatcher, Department of Geography, Clark University

Geographers studying technology have recently turned their gaze upon “big
data” – massive datasets produced through the aggregation of crowdsourced,
social, and other digitally available data. While the data itself may not
be new, the ability to rapidly aggregate and analyze previously unheard of
combinations of data has led to an increased focus on its importance to
social explanation. Geographers have contributed to big data studies by
incorporating the spatial dimension that is increasingly attached to such
data and, in turn, exploring the ways big data has come to mediate the
urban experience (Batty 2012).

Amidst this enthusiasm, some concern has been raised as to the diminished
interest in ‘small data’ studies, the epistemic limits of big data, and the
new challenges posed to privacy/confidentiality, access, data ownership,
and ethical use, with the editor of Wired magazine infamously declaring
that big data signals the ‘end of theory’ (Anderson 2008). Perhaps the most
trenchant critique of big data came in the form of six provocations
intending to temper unbridled enthusiasm surrounding big data (boyd and
Crawford 2012), while others have tried to retain the important focus on
small-scale research methodologies such as interviews, participant
observation, ethnography, and grounded theory (Burrell 2012).

Rather than the deterministic result of technological development, big data
and its accompanying methodologies are embedded within social and
institutional values while also imbricating social relations in particular
ways. The means and results of these processes offer rich potential for
research; in other words, there is an impetus to study big data in its
social and institutional contexts. To this end, critical GIS, feminist
geography, critical social theory, and science & technology studies all
promise to lend productive insights into these processes.

This session aims to explore these questions through both empirical and
theoretical discussions, hopefully launching future conversation.

*Potential Questions:*
-Does “big data” represent a further step in the so-called computational
turn, or is it something new?
-What are the epistemological commitments entailed in a “big data” study?
-What decisions entangle big data in existing social relations? How might
these decisions shape future relations?
-In what contexts has the big data phenomenon developed, and how have these
influenced its attendant concepts, methods, and uses?
-What is the continued role of “small data” vis-a-vis increased attention
to big data? Where is big data not appropriate or advantageous?
-In what ways can critical theories of technology contribute to big data
studies? From what other theoretical bases can big data draw? How might
‘small data’ studies draw upon these schools of thought when critiquing big
-What ethical dilemmas are introduced by big data, and from what ethical
frameworks should big data draw?
-How do the implications of big data differ across diverse communities,
populations, and demographics? How are race, gender, class, and other forms
of difference implicated differently?

To participate please submit your talk title and abstract to Jim Thatcher (
jthatcher at clarku.edu) or Ryan Burns (rlburns at uw.edu) by October 17th, 2012.
This session will be part of #GEO/CODE 2013: Geoweb, Big Data and
Society<http://bit.ly/LTxFr8> organized
by the new mappings collaboratory <http://newmaps.as.uky.edu/>.
Ryan Burns, PhC
Department of Geography
University of Washington

BurnsR77 at gmail.com
rlburns at uw.edu
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