data before the fact (rosenberg, 2013)

Schermata 04-2456404 alle 14.38.27

“From the beginning, data was a rhetorical concept. “Data” means that which is  given prior to argument. As a consequence, its sense always shifts with argumentative strategy and context—and with the history of both. The rise of modern natural and social  science beginning in the eighteenth century created new conditions of argument and new assumptions about facts and evidence. But the pre-existing semantic structure of the term “data” gave it important flexibility in these changing conditions.  It is tempting to want to give data an essence, to define what exact kind of fact it is. But this misses important things about why the concept has proven so useful over these past several centuries and why it has emerged as a culturally central category in our own time. When we speak of “data,” we make no assumptions about veracity. It may be that the electronic data we collect and transmit has no relation to truth beyond the reality  that it constructs. This fact is essential to our current usage. It was no less so in the early modern period; but in our age of communication, it is this rhetorical aspect of the term that has made it indispensable” (from Rosenberg, Data Before the Fact, 2013)

Published by

Cosimo Accoto

Research Affiliate at MIT | Author "Il Mondo Ex Machina" (Egea) | Philosopher-in-Residence | Business Innovation Advisor |

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